Most Americans are unfamiliar with the federal government’s taxpayer-subsidized killing campaign carried out every year against public wildlife on public lands, most of them located in the West.
New Jersey environmentalist Lisa McCormick has endorsed legislation that would ban the use of M-44 devices, which are spring-loaded devices filled with sodium cyanide that are intended to kill coyotes and other predators but have also claimed innocent lives.
M-44s have been criticized for being indiscriminate and for killing unintended victims, including pets and people.
In 2017, a 14-year-old boy from Idaho was injured when he triggered an M-44 device while walking his dog. The dog, Kasey, an energetic 3-year-old golden Lab was killed instantly.
“M-44s are a cruel and indiscriminate way to kill wildlife,” McCormick said. “They’re also a public safety hazard. We need to ban these devices and find more humane ways to manage wildlife populations.”
The legislation, known as Canyon’s Law, is named after Canyon Mansfield, the Idaho boy who was injured by an M-44. The bill has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Wildlife Services issued a temporary moratorium on the use of M-44 devices after the incident in Idaho, but the Trump administration reversed that stoppage.
As of June 2023, M-44 “cyanide bombs” are still being used for predator control in 10 states, including Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services is the only agency licensed by the EPA to use sodium cyanide in the M-44.
Primary targets of the M-44 are coyotes, feral (wild) dogs, and red and gray foxes but they have poisoned people, killed countless dogs and slaughtered nontarget wildlife.
In Nevada, 2018 marked a significant decrease in the number of coyotes killed with the M-44. By contrast, in 2017, Wildlife Services in Nevada killed 4,662 coyotes. M-44s killed 262 of them. In 2018, the M-44 kill number was 106.
“I’m proud to endorse Canyon’s Law,” McCormick said. “This is an important step in protecting our wildlife and our communities. We must be smart enough to stop deploying cyanide, one of the world’s deadliest poisons.”
The bill has the support of a number of environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Predator Defense, and the Humane Society of the United States.
“M-44s are a relic of the past,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are better ways to manage predators, and we need to stop using these dangerous devices.”
The Wildlife Services program, active for over a century, has targeted animals such as wolves, coyotes, beavers, and bears. However, this program has also caused the unintended deaths of endangered wildlife and even family pets.
One of the most disturbing methods employed by the program is the use of M-44s, which are inhumane traps that spray sodium cyanide into the faces of unsuspecting animals attracted by a bait. Any creature, including humans, triggering the device may experience agonizing poisoning or severe injury.
The proposed Canyon’s Law has received support from several organizations dedicated to wildlife conservation and environmentalists.
These deadly M-44 devices, spring-loaded capsules armed with cyanide spray, have caused the deaths of thousands of animals each year and have even injured people.
Congressman Huffman expressed his support for the legislation, stating, “Cyanide bombs are a cruel and indiscriminate device that have proven to be deadly for pets, humans, and wildlife – regardless of the intended target.”
He emphasized the importance of ensuring the safety of families enjoying outdoor activities, highlighting the availability of safer and proven methods to protect livestock.
Senator Merkley echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that these dangerous devices pose a threat to families, pets, and wildlife alike. He emphasized the need for more effective, safe, and humane predator control options on public lands.
The bill aims to protect the well-being of individuals and animals by banning M-44 cyanide bombs on public lands. These traps, resembling sprinkler heads, have caused countless unintended deaths and irreversible harm. The proposed legislation seeks to put an end to this indiscriminate method of predator control, advocating for the use of more humane alternatives.
The reintroduction of Canyon’s Law is hailed by various organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Predator Defense, Animal Welfare Institute, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Western Watersheds Project.
These organizations, along with concerned individuals like McCormick, are united in their call for the banning of M-44 cyanide bombs on public lands to ensure the safety and well-being of both people and wildlife.
The bill is facing opposition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and industry groups that argue M-44s are an effective way to control predators that threaten livestock and other wildlife.
“NCBA, and many of our affiliates such as the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, appreciate EPA’s decision to retain the use of this important tool. Livestock producers have to contend with predation of livestock on a daily basis and having access to every tool in the toolbox allows our ranchers to continue to protect the herd,” said Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
The outcome of the legislation is uncertain. However, the endorsement of McCormick and other environmental groups is a sign that the bill has gained momentum.