Stop Cyanide Bombing of Wildlife

October 9th, 2019 - by Michelle Loth / Western Environmental Law Center & Neil Vigdor / The New York Times

Stop the Use of Lethal M-44 “Cyanide Bombs” to Kill Native Wildlife

Michelle Loth / Western Environmental Law Center

I have started a petition to Andrew Wheeler, Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency. The petition says:

Dear Mr. Wheeler and the US Environmental Protection Agency,

Please cancel the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act registration for sodium cyanide, the active lethal ingredient in M-44 “cyanide bombs” during the pending registration review. M-44s are indiscriminate, inhumane, and unnecessary wildlife killing devices that poison and kill non-target animals, including pet dogs and endangered species.

Continued use of M-44s is having devastating impacts on humans, pets, and wildlife. Earlier this year, the EPA issued a proposed interim decision renewing sodium cyanide registration despite more than 99.9 percent of public comments urging the EPA to ban M-44s.

Even though the agency had included at least a few –– albeit minimal –– increased use restrictions to protect the public, the agency later withdrew these new protections, maintaining M-44’s destructive use as the status quo.

Please address this critical public safety risk by canceling the registration for sodium cyanide and banning the use of M-44s nationwide.

The Trump administration recently reauthorized the use of deadly sodium cyanide in wildlife-killing devices called M-44s on our public lands. These “cyanide bombs” were approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency despite inhumanely and indiscriminately killing thousands of animals each year by luring them in by smelly bait.

Anything or anyone that pulls on the baited M-44 device can be killed or severely injured by the deadly capsule of sodium cyanide inside. In 2017 alone, M-44s temporarily blinded a child and killed three beloved family dogs in two incidents in Idaho and Wyoming, and accidentally killed an endangered wolf in Oregon.

The Western Environmental Law Center is a nonprofit, public-interest environmental law firm and our expert attorneys are using the full power of the law to stop the use of dangerous, lethal sodium cyanide poison devices on public lands nationwide.

ACTION: Sign Michelle’s petition

EPA Backtracks on Use of ‘Cyanide Bombs’ to Kill Wild Animals

Neil Vigdor / The New York Times

(August 16, 2019) — The federal Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday withdrew its support for the continued use of so-called cyanide bombs to protect livestock from predators, reversing course amid strong opposition to the practice.

The EPA administrator, Andrew R. Wheeler, said he was withdrawing an interim reauthorization for the use of M-44 devices, which are used to kill coyotes, foxes and other animals that prey on livestock. The agency, he added, would re-evaluate the highly criticized practice. 

“This issue warrants further analysis and additional discussions by EPA with the registrants of this predacide,” Mr. Wheeler said in a statement on Thursday. “I look forward to continuing this dialogue to ensure US livestock remain well protected from dangerous predators while simultaneously minimizing off-target impacts on both humans and nonpredatory animals.”

The federal Department of Agriculture, along with its state counterpart agencies in Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, have relied on the M-44s for farming since the mid-1970s.

The devices are smeared with scented bait, which cause predators to bite on and pull them. A capsule containing sodium cyanide, a highly toxic pesticide, is then ejected into the predator’s mouth. 

The E.P.A’s withdrawal of the reauthorization does not bar people from using the devices, the agency said in an email on Friday. It will issue a final decision after review.

In its interim reauthorization decision, which was written in June but made public last week, the EPA acknowledged that “an overwhelming majority” of the 20,000 public comments it had received were submitted in opposition to its proposal to renew the use of cyanide bombs. 

The agency received the comments as part of a write-in campaign organized by the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians, two environmental groups that have criticized the practice as inhumane. 

“I’m thrilled that the EPA just reversed its wrongheaded decision to reauthorize deadly cyanide traps,” Collette Adkins, the carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement on Thursday. “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 2017, the devices killed more than 6,500 animals across the country, according to the federal Department of Agriculture, which acknowledged that 200 of them were unintended targets, including foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, swine and a black bear.

According to Predator Defense, a wildlife advocacy group, Dennis Slaugh of Utah died in 2018, 15 years after being poisoned by an M-44 device. Ten other people were injured and nearly 50 dogs killed by the devices in the past three decades, the group said.

Two separate efforts by environmentalists to block the use of M-44s were denied by the EPA in the past decade, in 2009 and 2018.

Neil Vigdor is a breaking news reporter on the Express Desk. He previously covered Connecticut politics for the Hartford Courant. 

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