The Environmental Protection Agency has suddenly backed off its reauthorization of the controversial use of “cyanide bomb” toxic traps that the Department of Agriculture employs to kill wildlife for ranchers and farmers.
The sudden EPA reversal comes after a cascade of complaints about the spring-loaded traps, officially called M-44s, that are filled with sodium cyanide and are set to kill foxes, bears, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, birds and other animals.
Critics, who have labeled the devices “cyanide bombs, say they should be permanently banned because the traps can forever contaminate the environment, kill a far wider population of unintended victims — including pets — and harm humans.
Just last week, the EPA announced a preliminary interim authorization allowing continued use of the deadly traps while effects would continue to be studied for a report not due until 2021. But the agency announced Thursday that use of the devices is now being suspended.
“I am announcing a withdrawal of EPA’s interim registration review decision on sodium cyanide, the compound used in M-44 devices to control wild predators. This issue warrants further analysis and additional discussions by EPA,” said a statement issued Thursday by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
“I look forward to continuing this dialogue to ensure U.S. livestock remain well-protected from dangerous predators while simultaneously minimizing off-target impacts on both humans and non-predatory animals,” Wheeler added.
Environmentalists battling the traps were relieved.
“I’m thrilled that the EPA just reversed its wrongheaded decision to reauthorize deadly cyanide traps,” Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement to HuffPost. “So many people expressed their outrage, and the EPA seems to be listening. I hope the feds finally recognize the need for a permanent ban to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from this poison.”
In a heartbreaking encounter 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 the USDA’s Wildlife Services over his poisoning.
Officials stopped using the traps in Idaho after the Mansfield case and in Colorado following a lawsuit there by environmentalists. Oregon has banned the traps. But the traps have been widely used elsewhere, including on public lands, for decades.
The Center for Biological Diversity said that 99.9% of all comments sent to the EPA about the traps opposed the reauthorization of the poison for predator control. The EPA’s announcement last week that it was reauthorizing the traps triggered a new uproar.
The devices spray deadly sodium cyanide into the mouths of unsuspecting coyotes, foxes and other carnivores lured by bait. The trap, which looks something like a sprinkler head, can be triggered by any animal — or human — that touches it.
The documentary below addresses the USDA’s use of the cyanide bombs to kill wildlife. Be warned: It’s disturbing.
Despite the reversal on cyanide bombs, it wasn’t a banner week for the EPA. On Monday the Trump administration profoundly weakened provisions of the Endangered Species Act, a critical law for protecting imperiled plants and animals.