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EPA Approves Bringing Back The Use Of “Cyanide Bombs” To Kill Wild Animals

Bears, wolves, and other wild animals often get caught up in the traps. NaturesMomentsuk/Shutterstock


The US federal government has approved “cyanide bombs” as an approach to kill wild animals, despite of strong opposition from environmentalists and wildlife advocates.

Officially called as M-44s, cyanide bombs, are spring-loaded traps filled with sodium cyanide – a poisonous material mainly targeted at killing pests, including foxes, coyotes, and wild pigs. The purpose of such design is to entice the animal in with bait, then spray their mouths with toxic chemicals. 

However, the issue to be carefully considered is, “pests” are not the only animals that have been trapped. This approach would not only have the risk of killing wild animals that are not considered pests, especially those who are regarded as threatened or endangered ones, but also pose threats to pets and people who inadvertently get in the way.

According to data released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in 2018 over 1.5 million animals were disposed of by their agents in 2018,  but only 6,500 animals were  killed by M-44s, including wolves, black bears, and owls.

In 2017, “cyanide bomb” killed three pet dogs  and a teen from Idaho was temporarily blinded. His parents successfully sued the government for $150,000 the following year.

Although the FWS started to use M-44s in the 1960s, the agency had to take reconsideration of  its use after a lawsuit against the agency by  four conservation and wildlife groups in 2018.

After banning the trap in both Idaho and Colorado, Oregon signed the ban on using them into law as well. 

Recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized the use of M-44s again, approving that it could be used on an interim basis and with certain provisos. According to the new rules, M-44s can no longer be placed within 100 feet (30 meters) of a public road or path. (Previously, the rules stated 50 feet/15 meters.) In addition, warning signs must be clearly seen from 15 feet (4.5 meters) – not 25 feet (7.6 meters).

As for the use of M-44s, the EPA is standing together with ranchers and agriculturists, advocating that while M-44s would keeping away predators from attacking livestock, a ban would lose farmers money. However, the opposite side against the poison device has criticized the decision, calling the bombs “indiscriminate killers”.

As Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that could not be used safely by anyone anywhere. So they were campaigning for a permanent  ban on nationwide basis, which was thought to be the only way to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from this poison.

It was found by the Center for Biological Diversity that more than 99 percent of comments received by the EPA in regard to reauthorized use of the M-44  supported a ban.