EPA reauthorizes use of ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill wild animals

The US Environmental Protection Agency has begun reauthorizing “cyanide bombs” used as chemical traps to kill predatory animals, despite backlash from environmental groups.

The EPA released its Interim Registration Review Decision from June, announcing that it is moving forward with the reauthorization of M-44s, chemical traps filled with sodium cyanide.

The EPA received over 20,000 letters about the move, it says, but the vast majority did not support the continued registration of the devices.

The devices are used to protect livestock and protected species from predators like coyotes, foxes and feral dogs. But critics argue that they can harm people and non-predatory animals that may stumble upon them.

That’s what happened in 2017, when a cyanide trap laid by the US Department of Agriculture killed a 14-year-old’s dog in Idaho.

And although the traps are supposed to help protect at-risk species, another USDA cyanide trap killed a wolf in Oregon that had just been taken off the Endangered Species List two years earlier.

“Cyanide traps can’t be used safely by anyone, anywhere,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.

The EPA included some restrictions in its review, such as requiring that all occupants within a half-mile radius be notified of the device’s placement and that they be kept at least 50 feet from public roads or pathways.

But critics say those restrictions aren’t enough.

“While it is encouraging that the EPA is taking at least some minimal action to protect the public from deadly M-44s, updating a few use restrictions — nearly impossible to enforce and commonly ignored — fails to meaningfully address the problem,” Kelly Nokes, a wildlife attorney, said in the Center for Biological Diversity’s statement. “EPA is blatantly ignoring its fundamental duty to protect the public, our pets, and native wildlife from the cruel, lethal impacts of cyanide bombs lurking on our public lands.”

Oregon outlawed M-44 devices and all others that disperse sodium cyanide this year.