Wolf Awareness is a non-profit Canadian organization dedicated to the conservation of wolves through research and public education about wolf ecology.

Poison – WARNING!

Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has recently announced a Proposed Regulatory Decision for the Use of Strychnine to Control Ground Squirrels, stating ” Under the authority of the Pest Control Products Act and based on the evaluation of currently available scientific information, Health Canada is proposing that products containing strychnine for control of ground squirrels do not meet current standards for environmental protection and, are therefore, proposed to be cancelled.”

Currently, this poison is too easy to obtain and it can be stockpiled.  Cancellation of this type of use of Strychnine and its associated end-use products will help end the suffering of ground squirrels as well as non-target animals that are also subjected to this indiscriminate killer.  This is an important step in the right direction and we fully support this decision….will you help to ensure this decision is supported so it can pass?  Make the cancellation of strychnine for ground squirrels official by adding your support during the comment period underway.

How to Get Involved

This consultation is open for comment from 29 June 2018 to 27 September 2018 (90 calendar days).

Use the form below to submit your comment on PRVD2018-13 to Health Canada.

All comments received will be considered. A final re-evaluation decision will consider additional scientific information provided during the public comment period. The proposed re-evaluation can be read here: PRVD2018-13 eng

Your comment will also be sent to the Minister of Health and other important decision-makers to ban the use, production, processing and sale of Compound 1080, strychnine and M-44 cyanide devices outright across Canada.  Your letter will also be sent to decision makers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where these dangerous products are still being used. 

If you personalize your letter, you will have a much stronger impact!



Decision-makers your letter is being sent to:

Federal Government:

Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health Canada

Dr. Richard Aucoin, Executive Director, Pesticide Management and Regulatory Agency



Honourable Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta

Honourable Shannon Phillips, Minister of Alberta Environment and Parks

Bev Yee, Deputy Minister, Alberta Environment and Parks



Honourable Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan

Honourable Dustin Duncan, Saskatchewan Minister of Environment

Lin Gallagher, Deputy Minister, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment


  1. These chemicals are a cruel method of killing wildlife.
  2. These poisons are a threat to species at risk and biodiversity.
  3. These poisons are unnecessary and ineffective.  Better alternatives exist. 
  4. They pose a serious threat to the health and safety of Canadians.
  5. These toxins have been banned in many countries; it is time for Canada to follow suit.


Strychnine is currently undergoing re-evaluation as an allowable pesticide in Canada through the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), which is a sector of Health Canada.  Consultation on a proposed decision is scheduled for early 2018, but PMRA has already indicated they don’t plan to evaluate all of the uses of strychnine during the evaluation, ignoring strychnine used to poison wolves, among others.

Your voice is needed today to ensure PMRA conducts a complete evaluation that includes recent condemnation from the scientific community and the Alberta government’s data which outlines the staggering number of non-target deaths recorded in a single area.  Public input is necessary to show that Canadians won’t stand for toxins that torture wildlife, decrease biodiversity, and pose a serious threat to the safety of people and pets.

Sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 are to be re-evaluated in the early 2020’s, but we believe that all three convulsion-causing predacides must be re-evaluated and banned.  In addition, several of Alberta’s provincial use permits for strychnine expired December 31, 2017 only to be renewed renewed for another 5 years, where strychnine is registered for use as a “wolf, coyote & black bear predacide”, skunk poison, and is available to farmers in 2% liquid form as a rodenticide.

As long as these products remain available in Canada these poisons will continue to kill wild and domestic animals across the country, such as these recent strychnine deaths in British Columbia . 



1. These chemicals are a cruel method of killing wildlife

Compound 1080, strychnine and sodium cyanide are each widely acknowledged as an inhumane method of killing animals due to the intensity and duration of the suffering they cause. Animals that ingest Compound 1080 or strychnine can suffer excruciating pain for several hours; sometimes even days with 1080, before finally losing consciousness. Symptoms can include but are not limited to severe and prolonged convulsions, vomiting, unusual vocalizations, excessive salivation, muscular weakness and respiratory distress. Poisoned animals can become injured or suffer tissue trauma if they come in contact with rigid objects during their uncontrollable muscle spasms. Poisoned 1080 victims will typically die from respiratory or nervous system failure or from a cardiac attack.  Watch this informative video about 1080 from New Zealand.

Strychnine and Sodium Cyanide also cause similar violent symptoms and convulsions to victims and lead to prolonged suffering prior to death.

Proulx et al.’s scientific publication Poisoning wolves with strychnine is unacceptable in experimental studies and conservation programmes (2015) outlines the following:

“According to the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC 2003), a killing method is humane if it causes rapid (immediate) unconsciousness and subsequent death without pain or distress. Death by strychnine ingestion is inhumane, as it causes frequent periods of tetanic seizures, occasional cessation of breathing, hyperthermia, extreme suffering, and death from exhaustion or asphyxiation, which typically occurs within 1–2 hours of the onset of clinical signs (Khan 2010). However, death can take up to 24 hours or longer if the dose is low (Eason & Wickstrom 2001).

The use of strychnine to kill wolves is in contravention of CCAC guidelines (CCAC 2003), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA 2013), the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (2014), and the American Society of Mammalogists (Sikes et al. 2011)”.

2. These poisons are a threat to species at risk and biodiversity

Poison baits are often the subject of vigorous debate over the impact they have on non-target animals, including endangered species, domestic animals and companion animals. The residual poison left in the tissues of victims is toxic to scavengers as well.  These toxins can virtually render a landscape sterile, effecting everything sharing a food chain.

11 different non-target species have been killed by strychnine in Alberta’s Little Smoky wolf kill program; for a minimum of 243 non-target deaths 2005-2017

Despite all three poisons being equally inhumane, wildlife managers often attempt to persuade the public that Compound 1080 is a more selective poison that the others, specifically targeting wolves and coyotes or any animal in the dog family – Canidae – because they metabolize the toxin differently. Compound 1080 was originally believed to be specific to canids, because canids are up to ten times more susceptible to the poison compared to most other mammals, however in reality it is highly toxic to all mammals and birds, and has varying potential toxicity levels on fish and invertebrates.  While 1080 is mainly used to target rodents and wild canids, many other animals have been unintentionally killed by it, including endangered species, livestock and pets. For this reason, we will focus on how indiscriminate a killer Compound 1080 actually is. Because of its non-selectivity (PMRA 2014), Compound 1080 has killed humans, pets, eagles, badgers, bobcats, raccoons, bears, wolves, coyotes and various other wildlife species (Defenders  1982). Additionally, victims vomit after ingesting this slow-acting poison, thereby spreading it across the landscape until they are killed  (Randall 1981). Veterinarians of the Canadian Cooperative of Wildlife Health (CCWHC), (1999) classified 1080 as “moderately selective for canids”.


Before discontinuing use of Compound 1080 in the late 1990’s, a BC government report found that 20-28% of wolf baits containing the poison were taken by non-target species. Similarly in the US, a federal predator control supervisor found the poison in the carcasses of golden eagles, bobcats, black bears, pine martens, badgers, dogs and Canada Jays. The poison is believed to be at least partly responsible for the decline of several species at risk in North America, including the Kit fox, California Condor and Black-footed ferrets in the US. Environment Canada has reported that the poison is at least partly responsible for a drastic 71% decline of a breeding colony of Burrowing Owls over a 2-year period.

This is of great concern not only for Burrowing Owls but other species at risk in Alberta and Saskatchewan where Compound 1080 and other poisons are permitted. Vulnerable scavengers include Swift fox, American badger, Grizzly bear and Short-eared owl, among others.

3. These poisons are unnecessary and ineffective. Better alternatives exist.

Only a small percentage of livestock deaths are caused by wild predators. Pre-emptive and/or indiscriminate wolf and coyote kill programs (whether through poisoning, traps or aerial gunning) can result in higher wolf and coyote numbers and greater livestock depredation because it disrupts their natural behaviours and pack dynamics. Humane alternatives exist that are much more effective at preventing and reducing livestock depredation.  See Wolf Awareness Ranchers Guide to Coexistence Among People, Livestock and Wolves 2nd Ed.

As the ends do not justify the means, the use of poison in a conservation campaign aimed at caribou recovery is hypocritical and ludicrous.  Not only are the methods of death inhumane to all species that encounter the poison, but there is no evidence to indicate that the province’s wolf kill program has significantly increased caribou populations, despite killing more than 800 wolves since 2005.

4. They pose a serious threat to the health and safety of people and pets

One teaspoon of Compound 1080 can kill 30-100 people. There is no antidote.

Labelled as a Class 1a poison (the most toxic category) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and considered a super poison by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Compound 1080 is a colourless, odourless salt that is highly soluble in water.

The FBI has shown concern that all three of these highly toxic pesticides are considered as likely to be used by terrorists, and indeed, all of them have been.*

While intended for wildlife deemed a ‘nuisance’, Compound 1080 has resulted in accidental human deaths in the U.S. The federal government has assigned the responsibility of administering and monitoring Compound 1080 to provincial governments which have delegated it to the municipal/local level. Our research suggests that it is not regulated well enough in Canada to ensure the public’s safety or the protection of wild and domesticated animals that are not the intended targets.

Despite restrictions on its use, strychnine poisoning in dogs continues to be a prevalent concern in western Canada, with at least 93 cases of strychnine poisoning in dogs in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba between 1998 and 2013, read the science report here.

Dulce was a loving and patient dog, victim to strychnine.

Read this heartfelt letter by a couple who lost Dulce, their four-legged companion, to Strychnine near Cremona, Alberta. Dulce was not the only dog that fell victim to strychnine in the area,  there were three additional dog deaths that season.  Dulce’s loss was completely unexpected and devastating, with his life ending in front of the couple’s grandchildren.   We are using their experience to increase awareness and stop the use of these dreadful poisons.

A young boy recently lost his companion dog and nearly his own life to a Sodium Cyanide cartridge, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove cyanide devices and announce that it is ending its use of the M-44 mechanisms in Idaho indefinitely.

5. These toxins have been banned in several jurisdictions. It is time for Canada to follow suit.

Compound 1080, often considered to be the least harmful of these three predacides, has been banned in Brazil, Belize, Cuba, Slovenia, Thailand, China, and several US states including California, Washington State and Oregon.

Strychnine was banned from the USA for killing predators and skunks in the early 1970’s, and then banned for above ground use in 1988.  It was banned by the European Union in 2006.