EPA reauthorizes use of ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill wild animals

The US Federal Government has given the green light for the M-44, a spring loaded trap filled with sodium cyanide, known as ‘’cyanide bombs’’ being used again.

These poison bombs are used to kills pests, including foxes, coyotes and wild pigs. The animals are enticed with bait which then sprays their mouths with the poison. Other animals are also being killed by these traps, including many on the threatened or endangered lists. Pets and people have also accidentally been sprayed.


US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) disclosed that more than 1.5 million animals were killed in 2018 by their agents and approximately 6,500 by M-44’s which included black bears, wolves and owls.

In 2017 three pet dogs were killed and a teen from Idaho was temporarily blinded by these devices. In the latter incident, the parents sued the government and won a $150,000 settlement in 2018.

M-44’s have been in use since the 1960’s by the FWS but reconsidered their use after a lawsuit by four conservation and wildlife groups in 2018.

Idaho and Colorado both banned the traps previously and Oregon signed the ban in May.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reauthorized their use on Tuesday on a provisional basis with certain restrictions which include the M-44’s not being placed within 100 feet (30 meters) of a public road or path (previously 50ft/15m). Warning signs must be visible from 15 feet (4.5 meters), previously 25 ft/7.6m.

The EPA stands with ranchers and agriculturists believing that M-44s helps preventing predators from attacking livestock, whereas a ban would cause them to lose money. Opponents of the device criticized the decision, calling the bombs “indiscriminate killers”.

“Cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that can’t be used safely by anyone, anywhere,” Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

“We’re fighting for a permanent nationwide ban, which is the only way to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from this poison.”

The Center for Biological Diversity found that over 99% of comments received by the EPA regarding the re-authorization of M-44 supported a ban.


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