The Trump administration has reauthorized the use of highly toxic “cyanide bombs” to kill wildlife that ranchers and farmers want eliminated.
The controversial spring-loaded traps, called M-44s, are filled with sodium cyanide and are used by the Wildlife Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to kill animals such as foxes, bears, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions and birds at the behest of private farmers and ranchers.
Critics say the toxins can forever contaminate the environment, kill a far wider population of unintended victims, including pets, and harm humans.
“Cyanide traps can’t be used safely by anyone, anywhere,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity environmental organization, which has long battled the traps. “These deadly devices have caused too much harm to remain in use. We need a permanent nationwide ban to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from this poison.”
Two years ago, one of the death traps was triggered in Pocatello, Idaho, as 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield was walking his dog, Casey. The dog died a violent death in front of Canyon, and the teen was rushed to a hospital, where he eventually recovered from exposure to the poison in the trap set by federal workers. His parents are suing Wildlife Services over his poisoning.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday ruled that the cyanide bombs can again be used. The toxic traps cannot be used within 100 feet of public roads or trails. But the devices are so dangerous that they should be banned, say environmental activists.
Officials had stopped using the traps in Idaho after the Mansfield case and in Colorado following a lawsuit by environmentalists. Oregon has banned the traps.
CBD said that 99.9% of all comments sent to the EPA about the bombs opposed the reauthorization of the poison for predator control.
The EPA has argued that public comments had supported the use of the traps and added that rancher groups contended they would face economic losses if predators killed their livestock and poultry, according to Time.
The head of the environmental group Predator Defense called the EPA decision a “complete disaster.” 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,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of the environmental organization.
According to Wildlife Services data, M-44s killed 6,579 animals, mostly coyotes and foxes, in 2018, down from 13,232 the previous year. Hundreds of the deaths were non-target animals, including raccoons, skunks and a bear.
The devices spray deadly sodium cyanide into the mouths of unsuspecting coyotes, foxes and other carnivores lured by bait. Anything or anyone that pulls on the baited M-44 device can trigger the trap.
You can check out how the USDA is killing wildlife in the half-hour documentary below. But be warned: It’s disturbing.