Bush Suffers Poisoner To Live — And Pardons Him, To Boot

Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times treats this story of a Missouri farmer receiving a rare Presidential pardon as just one of those “human interest” features. So, what was the fellow pardoned of?

Mr. Collier’s crime was unlikely and, he said in an interview, unintended. While hunting, he began noticing the reappearance of wild turkeys, decades after they were believed to have died away. But he feared that a pack of coyotes in the area would not give them a chance to breed. “I got it in my head that if we got rid of the coyotes, the turkeys would get off to a better start,” Mr. Collier said. So he laid a trap of ground beef laced with the pesticide Furadan, which, under federal law, may not be used as animal poison.

Seven coyotes died after eating the beef. But several other animals fed on their carcasses and died as well, including the bald eagles.

The dead eagles were found by a passerby who alerted the federal authorities who, in turn, identified the poison that killed them and tracked its purchase to Mr. Collier. He pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and to the misdemeanor charge of illegal use of a pesticide.

With no prior criminal history, he was sentenced to two years of probation and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

As a convicted felon, Mr. Collier would have to give up his collection of hunting guns, a blow to his lifestyle. “We kind of got a hunting heritage in this family,” he said. “It’s what we do.”

It seems to me that the miscarriage of justice in this case lies in the granting of the pardon to an unworthy recipient, not in the original charge and conviction of an indiscrimant poisoner. What did the victims go through? This description gives an idea…

The poison works more like nerve-gas by paralysing the nervous system resulting in twitching, trembling, paralysed breathing, convulsions and, if the dose is enough, death. It gets into the body through swallowing, inhaling or touching. Furadan is responsible for the consequential death of millions of birds in the US. Birds which consumed dead grasshoppers and other insects (eliminated using Furadan on croplands) and those which ingested the chemical directly died en masse. in 1989 for instance, 1,985 ducks, 97% of northern pintails and 3% of green-winged teal were found dead in Colusa, California in an area where Furadan had been used.

Or this page, giving the symptoms for recognizing when a human has been poisoned. Other mammals would have much the same symptoms.

The carbamate insecticide group contains carbaryl insecticides, such as Sevin, that have low mammalian toxicities, and aldicarb and carbofuran, such as Temik and Furadan, that have a high mammalian toxicity.

Early symptoms of carbamate poisoning include weakness, dizziness, and sweating. Headache, salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common. Later symptoms include constricted pupils, lack of coordination, and slurred speech. As with organophosphates, tightness in the chest and coughing may precede lung failure or fluid entering the lungs.

The symptoms of a carbamate insecticide poisoning appear more quickly, are more easily reversed, and persist for a shorter time than do the symptoms of an organophosphate poisoning. Its fast action makes it imperative for a person to seek immediate medical treatment at the first sign of a poisoning. While the amount of carbamate or organophosphate required to produce symptoms may be the same, a greater amount of carbamate active ingredient is usually required to threaten the victim’s life. Importantly, blood tests do not easily identify carbamate in the body, so taking the label or MSDS to the hospital can be especially critical. The antidote for carbamate poisoning is atropine, which may have to be given in large doses.

Did Mr. Collier do anything to keep pet dogs and cats away from the poisoned meat? The story doesn’t say, nor does it relate exactly what other animals succumbed to the poison.

Why is the New York Times reading more like the local rag in its reporting? Are they going soft? Rutenberg spent precious column-inches on the history of the presidential pardon, and more on the particulars of Collier’s request going through the system. There is no sign that Rutenberg contacted any wildlife authority in writing his story. There’s no indication that Rutenberg did any research on effects of casual attempts at poisoning wildlife, residence times of Furadan, incidental risk to water supplies, or any of a number of things that could have — or should have — featured prominently in any such story.

The pardon is of a piece with Bush Administration policies concerning wildlife, a blatant disregard for any restrictions at all on human exploitation or destruction of wildlife. It’s not all that surprising that the “stingy” Bush happened to dole out a pardon for a good ol’ boy.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “Bush Suffers Poisoner To Live — And Pardons Him, To Boot

  • 2008/12/01 at 8:18 am
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    Having read that, I’m a bit more sympathetic towards the guy. His underlying motives were good, even if his execution was bone-headed.

    I wouldn’t have pardoned him, though. I assume the courts took all that into account anyway.

  • 2008/12/01 at 10:36 am
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    The guy strikes me as a real-life instantiation of Tom Lehrer’s hunter in “The Hunting Song”.

    Nope, sorry, the wells of sympathy are not yet opening for me. I keep thinking of the deaths Mr. Collier caused and exactly how each of those animals died, many of them needlessly. Maybe that’s getting in the way.

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