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Trump Administration Refuses to Ban Wildlife-Killing M-44 'Cyanide Bombs'

Animals
Tom Koerner / USFWS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has refused to ban M-44s, commonly known as cyanide bombs, which cause agonizing deaths for thousands of animals every year.


The agency's decision comes in response to a 2017 petition authored by the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians and signed by several other wildlife conservation groups.

The devices are used to kill coyotes, foxes and wild dogs, purportedly to address conflicts with livestock. But they also pose serious risks of accidental injury and death for people, family pets and imperiled wildlife.

"Cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that just can't be used safely," said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "We'll keep fighting for a permanent nationwide ban, which is the only way to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from the EPA's poison."

The EPA has registered sodium cyanide for use in M-44s by Wildlife Services—the secretive U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife-killing program—as well as by certain state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas.

The devices spray deadly sodium cyanide into the mouths of unsuspecting coyotes, foxes and other carnivores lured by smelly bait. Anything or anyone that pulls on the baited M-44 device can be killed or severely injured by the deadly spray.

M-44s temporarily blinded a child and killed three family dogs in two separate incidents in Idaho and Wyoming in 2017. A wolf was also accidentally killed by an M-44 set in Oregon last year. Idaho currently has a moratorium on M-44 use on public lands, resulting from the tragedies.

"The government continues to prioritize the minority anti-wildlife ranching industry over making public lands safe for people, imperiled wildlife and companion animals," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. "These dangerous, indiscriminate devices have absolutely no place on public lands, especially given no evidence exists that they actually reduce conflict."

According to Wildlife Services' own data, M-44s killed 13,232 animals, mostly coyotes and foxes, in 2017. Of these more than 200 deaths were nontarget animals, including a wolf, family dogs, opossums, raccoons, ravens and skunks.

Unfortunately these numbers are likely a significant undercount of the true death toll, as Wildlife Services is notorious for poor data collection and an entrenched "shoot, shovel, shut up" mentality.

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