In a welcome move, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will reevaluate its approval of cyanide bombs called M-44s – devices that state and federal agencies scatter around public and private lands to kill coyotes who are seen as posing a threat to livestock. These deadly devices – part of a larger war against wildlife being conducted with our taxpayer dollars by a rogue federal agency called Wildlife Services -- not only kill coyotes, they also kill endangered wildlife and dogs who come upon them. Ending their use could save thousands of lives each year.
The M-44 is a metal tube about the size of a tent stake, topped with a smelly bait designed to lure wild carnivores like coyotes. When an animal comes across the device and triggers it, it sprays powdered cyanide into the mouth of the victim, where it mixes with saliva or moisture from the air and turns into deadly cyanide gas, one of the most poisonous substances on earth, that is readily absorbed into the lungs and causes asphyxiation and death.
There’s a long list of unintended victims associated with M-44s: In 2017, 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield was sickened, and his dog, Kacey, died, after he accidentally detonated an unmarked M-44 device near his home in Pocatello, Idaho. In Colorado, a toddler and her father watched in horror as their pet dog died after he triggered an M-44 that was illegally placed on their farm by Wildlife Services. Working dogs, including border collies and Great Pyrenees, have been killed while protecting livestock. A therapy dog on a walk with a group of girls died before the troop’s eyes when he accidentally detonated an M-44 bomb.
There have been reports of a border patrol agent, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and a hobby rock collector being sickened after exposure to M-44s. Several Wildlife Services agents have poisoned themselves while deploying the devices. And we know that a number of protected species have also been victims of these bombs, including California condors, wolves and grizzly bears.
The HSUS has long opposed M-44s because of the threat they pose to humans, pets and wildlife, including endangered wildlife, and we have been fighting to end their use. In 2017, we joined a formal petition to the EPA asking that they cancel the registration of the deadly sodium cyanide pesticide used in M-44 devices. Last year, we entered a settlement that compels the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate the risks of M-44s and Compound 1080, another deadly and indiscriminate poison, to threatened and endangered species.
Wildlife Services routinely deploys these devices in the states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Last year, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, deciding enough was enough, signed a bill to prohibit their use in her state.
There are many alternatives now available that ranchers and farmers can use to humanely deter predators, including many developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own National Wildlife Research Center. These include techniques such as strobe lights, sound and smell aversive tools. These alternatives are not only safe, they are also far more effective, and the only reason they are not being used is because Wildlife Services and others have chosen to resort to killing instead.
We applaud the EPA’s decision to reevaluate the use of M-44 devices and we urge it to move forward on canceling the registration for sodium cyanide as a predator control method altogether. The use of this deadly poison is inhumane, unnecessary and exacts too great a toll on people, pets and our nation’s iconic wildlife.