‘Cyanide bombs’ use reauthorized to kill wild animals

The traps have caused unintentional deaths, but Wildlife Services can continue to employ them to protect livestock and farm crops.

 

Species like this swift fox can be killed by poisons loaded into M-44s, which were recently reauthorized for use by Wildlife Services. The swift fox is primarily a nocturnal species, but this individual was spotted during the day in north-central Colorado.

This article was originally published by the Guardian and is republished here by permission.

The Trump administration has reauthorized government officials to use controversial poison devices – dubbed “cyanide bombs” by critics – to kill coyotes, foxes and other animals across the US.

The spring-loaded traps, called M-44s, are filled with sodium cyanide and are most frequently deployed by Wildlife Services, a federal agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture that kills vast numbers of wild animals each year, primarily for the benefit of private farmers and ranchers.

In 2018, Wildlife Services reported that its agents had dispatched more than 1.5 million native animals, from beavers to black bears, wolves, ducks and owls. Roughly 6,500 of them were killed by M-44s.

On Tuesday, after completing the first phase of a routine review, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would allow sodium cyanide’s continued use in M-44s across the country on an interim basis.

Yet the traps are facing increasing opposition, and have, in the past, led to the inadvertent deaths of endangered species and domestic pets and caused harm to humans.

In 2017, a teenage boy named Canyon Mansfield was hiking with his dog in the woods behind his family’s home in Pocatello, Idaho when Mansfield’s dog triggered a cyanide trap that sprayed a plume of poison dust into the air. The dog died on the spot and Mansfield was rushed to the hospital, where he ultimately recovered. His parents are suing Wildlife Services over the poisoning.

Mansfield’s case made national headlines and has fueled opposition to M-44s. In May, in response to advocacy by environmental groups, Oregon’s governor Kate Brown signed a ban on the use of the traps in the state. In 2017, Wildlife Services agreed to temporarily halt the use of M-44s in Colorado after environmental groups sued. The agency also stopped using them in Idaho after the Mansfield case came to light.

In the months before the EPA announced the reauthorization, conservation groups and members of the public flooded the agency with comments calling for a complete national ban on the predator-killing poison. According to an analysis provided by the Center for Biological Diversity, which is a leading opponent of M-44s, 99.9% of all comments received by the EPA opposed the reauthorization of sodium cyanide for predator control purposes.

Although the agency took a different view, it did impose new restrictions on the use of M-44s. Among other things, the agency will now prohibit government officials from placing M-44s within 100 feet of public roads or trails. The agency’s reauthorization decision is only an interim one and a final decision on the matter is expected to come down after 2021.

Brooks Fahy, the executive director of the environmental group Predator Defense and a leading opponent of M-44s, denounced the EPA’s decision.

It is a “complete disaster”, he said. “[The EPA] ignored the facts and they ignored cases that, without a doubt, demonstrate that there is no way M-44s can be used safely.”

In response to the Guardian’s request for comment, the EPA referenced the documentation of the decision on its website.

Jimmy Tobias is a contributing writer for the GuardianThis story is published with the Guardian as part of their two-year series, This Land is Your Land, examining the threats facing America’s public lands, with support from the Society of Environmental Journalists. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SEASONAL SAN JUAN RANGERS
    Seeking experienced crew members to patrol Colorado's most iconic mountain wilderness.
  • ENDANGERED SPECIES STAFF SCIENTIST
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a staff scientist to advocate for the conservation of endangered species. General position overview: The position will involve working...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM
    The Center for Biological Diversity - a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of imperiled plants, animals and wild places - seeks a dynamic...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Staff Attorney to join our team of attorneys, scientists, campaigners who are working to protect America's public lands...
  • SOUTHWEST CONSERVATION ADVOCATE
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Southwest Conservation Advocate to join our team of attorneys, scientists and campaigners who are working to protect America's...
  • OCEANS PROGRAM CAMPAIGNER
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks an experienced campaigner for its oceans program. The aim of the position is to campaign for the protection of...
  • CLIMATE LAW INSTITUTE ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute is looking to add an attorney to its team and will consider applicants at both staff attorney...
  • FULL-TIME CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a full-time Campaign Director in our Climate Law Institute to join our campaign for progressive, urgent government action to...
  • WESTERN WATER PROJECT MANAGER
    National Wildlife Federation is hiring NM-based position focused on riparian corridors, watershed health. Learn more and apply online: https://www.nwf.org/about-us/careers
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Associate Program Director Location: New Mexico; flexible in state Position reports to: Senior Program Director Position Closes: March 13, 2020 GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The...
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIVE
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...