Development and use of Compound 1080 in coyote control, 1944-1972
Compound 1080® is a man-made sodium salt of fluoroacetic acid or fluoroacetate, which occurs in nature as the toxin in many species of poisonous plants. The toxicity of such plants had long been recognized, but the toxic agent was not identified as fluoroacetate until 1944. By that time, the pesticidal potential of synthesized sodium fluoroacetate (code number 1080-44) was being explored in the United States in wartime, crash program aimed at finding new rodenticides. Compound 1080, the main product of that program, proved to be the best rodenticide known up to that time. It was found to be even more toxic to canids than to rodents, so was used experimentally for coyote control beginning in November 1944. Compound 1080 was authorized for operational use in governmental predator control in 1946. Large meat baits, or bait stations, injected with 1080 solution and placed on livestock ranges in winter quickly became a preferred method for reducing coyote populations that preyed on sheep and cattle. The use of 1080 bait stations peaked in Fiscal Year (FY) 1963, when over 16,000 stations were placed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Predator and Rodent Control program. After 1963, numbers of 1080 stations declined year by year to 1972 when the use of 1080 and other predacides on Federal lands and in Federal programs was stopped by President Nixon’s Executive Order 11643, followed by Environmental Protection Agency suspension and cancellation of registrations for 1080 and other predacides. The 1080 cancellation was based partly on high potential hazard to humans, even though no human had ever been killed or seriously injured in connection with the use of this toxicant in coyote control. Paradoxically, most of the political agitation over Compound 1080 focused on its use in predator control, even though much greater amounts were used for rodent control. The total amount of 1080 sold in the U.S. during 1968-1972, the last 5 years in which 1080 bait stations were used, was approximately 10,003 lb. Only 1.3% (129 lb) of that amount was used for predator control. The largest amount of 1080 used for coyote control in the United States in any one year was about 42.4 lb, in FY 1963.