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Idaho family sues US after child sprayed by cyanide trap

UPDATED: Tue., June 19, 2018, 5:33 p.m.

BOISE – An Idaho couple has sued the U.S. government, saying their teenage son still suffers headaches after a predator-killing trap that federal workers mistakenly placed near their home doused him with cyanide.

Mark and Theresa Mansfield of Pocatello filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Idaho seeking more than $75,000 in economic damages and more than $75,000 for pain and suffering.

Their son, Canyon Mansfield, then 14, was playing with his dog last year when he triggered the trap that the U.S. Department of Agriculture placed to kill coyotes. The dog named Casey started convulsing and then died.

The devices, called M-44s, are embedded in the ground and look like lawn sprinklers but spray cyanide when they are set off. They are meant to protect livestock but sometimes kill pets and injure people. They killed about 12,500 coyotes in 2016, mostly in the U.S. West.

The traps drew increased scrutiny after the Associated Press reported that the teen was injured months after the government decided to stop using the devices on federal lands in Idaho. U.S. officials have said the cyanide trap was placed in error.

They said several months after the incident that they would expand a review of the traps, which are still used in other states. They also issued guidelines requiring federal workers to notify nearby residents of the devices’ placement.

Todd Grimm, Idaho director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, didn’t return a call Tuesday seeking comment on the lawsuit.

“While playing and throwing a toy for his dog,” the lawsuit said, the boy “noticed a pipe protruding from the ground that he thought looked like a sprinkler pipe. When he reached down and touched the pipe, it exploded with a loud bang.”

The lawsuit says an orange substance covered the boy’s clothing and got in his left eye and that he used snow to wipe off the substance. The boy then saw his dog convulsing and foaming at the mouth.

He ran home to get his mother, but when they returned the dog had died. Canyon Mansfield still has headaches from the poison, according to the lawsuit.

Reed Larsen, an attorney representing the Mansfields, declined to comment.

In a separate lawsuit by environmental and animal-welfare groups, U.S. officials in March agreed to complete a study on how two predator-killing poisons could be affecting federally protected species.

The settlement requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete consultations with the Environmental Protection Agency by the end of 2021 on the poisons that federal workers use to protect livestock on rural lands. One of the poisons is the cyanide used in M-44s.