science environment

Groups Seek Ban On M-44 'Cyanide Bombs' In Oregon

By Jes Burns (OPB)
Sept. 13, 2018 6:15 p.m.

Wildlife advocates are pushing federal officials to stop using spring-loaded cyanide devices to poison predators in Oregon. They filed a petition Thursday asking for an official rulemaking to ban the practice and remove the devices currently out on the land.

The petitioners call the M-44 devices “cyanide bombs” because when triggered, they shoot a burst of deadly cyanide powder in the air. Federal animal control agency Wildlife Services states it uses M-44s to kill problem coyotes, foxes and feral dogs.


In the petition, about one hundred physicians, vets, scientists and environmental groups stated the unintentional consequences of the devices are unacceptable.

“They kill everything. People have been poisoned, endangered species, the wolf in Eastern Oregon. So there’s this decades and decades long history of M-44s killing non-target species,” said Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, the group leading the effort.

Wildlife Services’ literature on the M-44 program states the devices are “effective and environmentally sound.” They help prevent livestock losses to predators, which costs ranchers and producers more than $100 million each year.


Fahy says there’s a wide variety of non-lethal methods available to control these predators that don’t put people in harm’s way.

Last year in Idaho, a teenaged boy and his dog triggered an M-44 near their home. The dog died at the site, and the boy suffered headache, vomiting and couldn't sleep for weeks after the incident, according to the Idaho State Journal.

Wildlife Services halted use of the devices in Idaho after the incident.

One of Oregon’s collared wolves — OR48 — died in 2017 after triggering an M-44. After that incident, Wildlife Services agreed to halt use of the devices in six eastern Oregon counties with significant wolf populations.

Fahy says Oregon is currently the only state in the Pacific Northwest where M-44s are actively used.

After a separate process, a federal court ordered officials earlier this year to formally review the safety of a chemical used in M-44s and decide by 2021 whether the devices should be banned.

Also Thursday, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown, a fellow Oregon Democrat, urging her to use her influence to push for the elimination of M-44s in the state.