Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation this week that bans the use of predator control devices referred to as “cyanide traps” or “cyanide bombs.”
The M-44 devices are used to kill coyotes, foxes and other canid-type predators that threaten livestock. The devices, which roughly resemble a sprinkler head, are baited. When triggered, they spray a dose of sodium cyanide into the mouth of the animal, causing chemical asphyxiation and death.
The problem, says those who oppose their use, is that M-44s kill indiscriminately.
“(They) poison anything that pulls on the devices, whether it’s people, pets or endangered wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
In 2017, a teenager in Idaho was poisoned and his dog killed when they triggered an M-44 trap near his home.
That same year, a wolf from the Shamrock Pack was killed by one of the devices in northeast Oregon. Oregon wildlife officials characterized the wolf killing as “unintentional take by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services,” the federal agency that handles human/wildlife conflicts and is the primary user of M-44s.
“This reflects a growing outrage from the public towards these devices,” Adkins said of new ban in Oregon.
The state legislation banning the use of the devices passed with bipartisan support, although not unanimously.
In an emailed statement, the Oregon Farm Bureau said, “The state legislature removed a tool from an already limited toolbox that farmers and ranchers have to protect both people and livestock from predator attacks.”
The bureau says in light of the ban, it hopes lawmakers will place on higher priority on funding other predator management programs.
Oregon is the final West Coast state to ban the devices, although they are still allowed on certain tribal lands in California. Idaho currently has a moratorium on their use.
Efforts are underway to ban the use of the cyanide traps nationwide. Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced companion bills (H.R. 2471 and S. 1301 respectively) earlier this month that would ban the use of two poisons, including sodium cyanide, used for predator control.
Late last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed to renew the registration of sodium cyanide for use in M-44s. Pesticides can only be sold or distributed in the U.S. if the EPA registers them — determines they do not pose “unreasonable risks to people or the environment.”
A public comment period on that proposal recently closed and an analysis released Wednesday by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Environmental Law Center found more than 99% of the comments submitted opposed the chemical’s continued use.