Trump administration re-authorizes ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill wildlife

James Marshall
August 11, 2019

Brushing off overwhelming public opposition, the Trump administration this week re-approved the use of so-called "cyanide bombs" to kill wild animals on public lands.

The conservation groups also pointed to Wildlife Services' own data showing that out of the almost 6,600 animals it killed in 2018, over 200 were non-target animals-a death toll they say is likely an under-count.

Data from the agency suggests that these spring-loaded traps killed 6,579 animals in 2018-the majority of which were coyotes and foxes. More than 200 deaths were nontarget animals, including foxes, opossums, raccoons, skunks and a bear.

Wildlife Services, the division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for wildlife management, is authorized to use the devices, as are state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas.

The CBD and other critics say that the traps "inhumanely and indiscriminately" kill thousands of animals every year, posing a danger to endangered species, domestic pets and even humans. In 2017, M-44s temporarily blinded a child and killed three pet dogs in Wyoming and Idaho, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Back in 2017, Canyon Mansfield, a teenage boy, was hiking with his dog in the woods in Pocatello, Idaho when his dog triggered a cyanide trap that sprayed poison into the air. He eventually recovered but his family subsequently brought a lawsuit against Wildlife Services.

In 2017, the Wildlife Services also agreed to stop the usage of M-44s in Colorado after a number of environmental groups sued them. But the EPA has decided they are still safe for use, after support from rancher groups and "stakeholders" including farmers groups. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, in 2016 under the Obama Administration, M-44s killed 13,530 animals, and 321 of those deaths were non-target animals including family dogs and a black bear.

A final decision regarding the device's continued use isn't expected until after Wildlife Services submits its report on the traps, which is required to be submitted no later than December 2021.

However, rather than appeasing the public and discontinuing M-44 devices completely, the EPA has instead updated its rules to include the banning of M-44 traps within 100 feet of a public road or pathway. Warning signs also must be placed within 15 feet of each device, decreased from 25 feet.

Still, some environmental activists worry that the restrictions will have no effect on safety.

"They're incredibly unsafe to people, their pets and endangered wildlife, they're just too risky to be used", Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told AFP on Thursday. "While the EPA added some restrictions, these deadly devices have caused too much harm to remain in use".

In particular, some are concerned that the new restrictions will not do anything to address the killing of non-target wildlife.

This week, the agency reauthorized use of M-44s in an interim decision posted to the Federal Register as a part of its ongoing review of the traps, which contain sodium cyanide.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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