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Federal and state wildlife officials discovered several poison-laced baits during a search for illegal pesticide operations in remote areas of Utah and Colorado this week.

The setting of poison baits to kill coyotes, eagles and other predators is illegal but still a common practice in the West, officials said.About 100 officers from the law enforcement arms of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management took part in the sweep.

The officers flew low-level aerial searches over west central and eastern Utah and northwest Colorado, looking for poisoned bait stations and dead animals who fed on the bait.

The airborne officers maintained radio contact with response teams on the ground, calling them in to investigate suspect areas.

"Not only is the use of pesticides against predators illegal, but the practice is killing hundreds of other birds and animals," said Galen Buterbaugh, regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Mountain-Prairie Region in Denver.

Tim Provan, director of the Utah DWR, said until now, some ranchers have felt safe putting out poison because of the remoteness of their lands.

But with aerial surveys, undercover operations, offers of rewards and the active involvement of citizens, "anyone considering using illegal poisons to control predators should think twice," he said.

Numerous states have documented the poisoning deaths of hundreds of bald and golden eagles, coyotes, foxes, badgers and domestic dogs and cats, officials said.

While poisons have long been used against predators in ranching communities, many sheep and cattle ranchers disapprove of the practice. Some have found dead animals, including pets, on their property, Buterbaugh said.

C. Booth Wallentine, executive vice president of the Utah Farm Bureau, said his organization does not promote the killing of any natural species, including predators, and condemns the use of poison.

"Under problem conditions, however, chemical toxicants should be used, but only under the supervision of federal, state or county predators control departments," he said.

March is typically a month of heavy poisoning losses among eagles, hawks, song birds and other wildlife, apparently because of the approaching lambing season.

"There are those who continue to use illegal and dangerous poisons to eliminate predators on lambing ground," Buterbaugh said. "We have to put a stop to that."

Lacing meat with agricultural pesticides like Furidan, 1080, thallium, cyanide and strychnine may be more common now than 10 years ago because of economic conditions and the availability of modern, more toxic pesticides.

After 1080 was banned in 1972, single eight-ounce cans have sold illegally for up to $800, the DWR said.