Chloroform & WCOs (Wildlife Control Operators) may sound like a strange topic but it’s not as strange as you think because WCOs have been using chloroform to euthanize wildlife for years. Why? Simple. Chloroform is readily available without a license and it’s highly effective in putting animals to sleep. Chloroform doesn’t require WCOs to have any special tools like syringes and needles. Just a place the animal in a air-tight environment, such as putting a cage trap inside a plastic bag, and pour about 1 fluid ounce into the bagged trap, taking care not to get the chloroform into the animal’s eyes, and the animal will go to sleep and then die in a few minutes.
If you think chloroform is a great way for WCOs to euthanize wildlife, consider that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in its 2013 edition of animal euthanasia standards disallows the use of chloroform on animals. The AVMA disapproves not because they think it is cruel to the animal, but due to its risk to the user (Panel on Euthanasia. (2013). Schaumburg, IL: AVMA. (1–102) p. 102).
How could a chemical used historically to anesthetize humans, be so bad? According to Science Direct, chloroform is a suspected carcinogen (cancer causing chemical) and has been associated with harm to unborn children. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also classifies chloroform as a Group B2 chemical meaning it is a suspected human carcinogen.
OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Administration) is the agency that establishes rules on worker safety. It set the chloroform PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) at 50 ppm or 240 mg/cubic meter. All well and good right? Not so fast. It appears that chloroform’s concentration in the air has to reach 85 ppm before the applicator can smell it (Amoore, J.E. and Hautala, E. 1983. Odor as an aid to chemical safety: odor thresholds compared with threshold limit values and volatiles for 214 industrial chemical in air and water dilution. Journal of Applied Toxicology 3(6):272-290). In other words, if the applicator smells the chloroform, he/she has already exceeded OSHA’s exposure limits.
What should be done? I think WCOs who choose to use chloroform should be careful to protect the safety of themselves, their clients, and the public. WCOs choosing to use the product should limit their exposure by watching wind direction and minimize use to the absolute necessary occasions. If they transport bottles in their trucks, care should be made to secure the bottle against breakage and to capture the volatile gases should breakage occur (such as in a motor vehicle accident).
I also hope the AVMA, wildlife agency personnel, and the WCO industry will work together to provide WCOs with acceptable and practical ways to anesthetize and euthanize wildlife. Many of the AVMA recommended methods are either impractical for WCOs or are not legally available to WCOs. Given the need for WCOs to euthanize wildlife, limiting WCO access to euthanizing products is a detriment to the industry, clients, and of course, wildlife.Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, is the owner of Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. He helps people restore their balance with nature through publishing, training, consulting, and the internet. He has published numerous articles in trade and academic publications along with several books (http://kingsdivinity.academia.edu/StephenMVantassel). He is a sought after speaker and trainer. Copyright All postings are the property of Stephen M. Vantassel and Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. Text (not images) may be reprinted in non-profit publications provided that the author and website URL is included. If images wish to be used, explicit and written permission must be obtained from Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC.