The Center for Biological Diversity recently submitted a petition to the public to ban the use of sodium cyanide in devices called M-44s. These devices, also known also as “cyanide bombs,” are used to kill wildlife that may pose threats to humans, livestock, or property. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Trump Administration, recently approved the use of M-44s for these uses, despite overwhelming support for a ban on their use.
When the EPA issued a proposed interim decision and opened a public comment period for the reintroduction of the M-44s, more than 99.9 percent of comments were in support of the ban, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center. In response to those public comments, the EPA added some restrictions. For example, the devices cannot be placed within 100 feet of a public road or pathway. The previous limit was 50 feet. In addition, elevated warning signs must be placed within 15 feet of each device, whereas before it was 25 feet. Lastly, people living within a half-mile of an M-44 placement must be notified.
DANGERS, CONCERNS, AND PUBLIC COMMENT
Despite these changes, environmental advocates including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Environmental Law Center expressed concerns for the potential hazards to wildlife, people, and pets–all of which can become collateral damage when something other than the intended target stumbles upon an M-44. The Western Environmental Law Center sums up the risks of cyanide bombs by contending that they are “inhumanely and indiscriminately killing thousands of animals every year…and they have also injured people.”
This is apparently not just rhetoric, as M-44s temporarily blinded a child and killed three family dogs in two incidents in Idaho and Wyoming in 2017. A wolf was also accidentally killed by an M-44 set in Oregon the same year. The state of Idaho thereafter instituted an ongoing moratorium on the use of M-44 on public lands, and Oregon passed legislation just this year that banned the use of these devices in the entire state.
Four activist groups filed suit in 2017 to ask a federal judge to halt the use of M-44s to kill predators. The lawsuit, filed on April 4, 2017, called the devices “dangerous and outdated tools” that threaten wildlife ranging from coyotes, usually the intended target, to wolves, bears, and even eagles.
What apparently led to the lawsuit was a February 2017 incident in which a protected gray wolf was killed in Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County. The wolf apparently bit or tugged on an M-44 device that was set by USDA Wildlife Services to kill coyotes on private land. It became an even more alarming concern after a 14-year-old from Pocatello, Idaho was injured and his dog killed when they came upon an M-44 device set near a housing development. That same year, two dogs were reported killed in Wyoming, although Wildlife Services denied setting the device responsible.
The Center for Biological Diversity has already banned these devices in state courts, but this petition, which you can access by clicking the link at the bottom of this article, seeks to ban M-44s nationwide. In 2017, the EPA denied a similar petition authored by the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians that also sought a nationwide ban on M-44s.
If you support the ban on these M-44 devices, you can sign the petition on the website for the Center for Biological Diversity by clicking here.
The sample language on the petition is as follows:
“I demand a nationwide ban on the barbaric use of M-44s to kill wildlife. M-44s are one of the cruelest tools in the government’s war on wildlife. These small metal cylinders are full of cyanide and covered in a sweet scent to attract unsuspecting wild animals. With a little tug, a lethal dose of poison shoots out, sending the victim into a slow, agonizing death. The Trump administration just announced it will reauthorize the use of these “cyanide bombs.” Since 2010 these vicious weapons have killed more than 130,000 animals, including unintended targets like gray wolves, coyotes, foxes, bears — even pets. In August the EPA issued an interim decision to renew sodium cyanide, but a week later withdrew the decision for more discussions. Earlier this year 99.9% of people commenting on the EPA proposal to bring back M-44s demanded a ban instead — yet Trump’s administration just decided to reauthorize their use. These barbaric, cruel killers need to be permanently banned nationwide. I demand that the EPA withdraw its authorization to use M-44s and put a stop to their use, once and for all.”