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Wolf Conservation Center Among Conservationists Seeking Nationwide Ban on Wildlife-killing M-44 ‘Cyanide Bombs’



Kelly Nokes, WildEarth Guardians,
Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity,

Indiscriminate Devices Injure People, Kill Pets, Endanger Wildlife

WASHINGTON— WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity and several other wildlife conservation groups, including the Wolf Conservation Center, petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency today to outlaw M-44 “cyanide bombs,” which cause agonizing deaths for thousands of animals every year.

The devices are used to kill coyotes, foxes and wild dogs, purportedly to address conflicts with livestock. But they also pose the risks of accidental injury and death for people, family dogs and imperiled wildlife. In response, the federal government has proposed bigger warning signs – an unproven and completely inadequate measure.

“Cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that cannot be safely used,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re not fooled by the feds’ ridiculous suggestion that posting bigger warning signs could somehow prevent the risks cyanide bombs pose to people, pets and wildlife. A permanent nationwide ban is the only answer.”

The EPA has registered sodium cyanide for use in M-44s by Wildlife Services – the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife-killing program – as well as by certain state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas. The devices are intended to protect livestock by spraying deadly sodium cyanide into the mouths of unsuspecting coyotes, foxes and other carnivores lured by smelly bait.

Yet, anything or anyone that pulls on the baited M-44 device can be killed or severely injured by the deadly spray of sodium cyanide. For example, M-44s temporarily blinded a child and killed three family dogs in two separate incidents in Idaho and Wyoming in March. A wolf was accidentally killed by an M-44 set in Oregon in February.

“The federal government has a paramount duty to protect people and wildlife from deadly poisons that unnecessarily endanger the public, wildlife and companion animals,” said Kelly Nokes, carnivore advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Given the wide array of nonlethal, effective conflict management tools available today, the use of dangerous and indiscriminate M-44s should immediately and permanently cease.”

According to USDA Wildlife Services’ own data, M-44s killed 13,530 animals, mostly coyotes and foxes, in 2016. Of these, 321 deaths were non-target animals, including family dogs, a black bear, opossums, raccoons, skunks, and a fisher.

This interactive map shows how many non-target animals of each species died from exposure to M-44s between 2010 and 2016. 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.

WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity authored the petition and are joined in their call for a nationwide ban on M-44 cyanide bombs by Advocates for the West, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Born Free USA, the Endangered Species Coalition, the Humane Society of the United States, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Predator Defense, Project Coyote, the Sierra Club, the Southwest Environmental Center, the Western Environmental Law Center, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network and the Wolf Conservation Center. Together the groups represent millions of Americans who want to see an end to the use of deadly M-44 cyanide bombs.