The Environmental Protection Agency decided this week that on an interim basis, Wildlife Services officials can once again use M-44s — spring-loaded traps filled with sodium cyanide — to kill wildlife in the United States.
Wildlife Services is part of the Department of Agriculture, and reported last year that agency officials killed more than 1.5 million native animals, with about 6,500 encountering M-44s. Critics say these "cyanide bombs" are dangerous, and have killed endangered species and pets and seriously injured humans. Brooks Fahy, executive director of the environmental group Predator Defense, told The Guardian the EPA "ignored the facts and they ignored cases that, without a doubt, demonstrate that there is no way M-44s can be used safely."
In 2017, a teenager from Pocatello, Idaho, was on a hike with his dog when the animal triggered a trap, released poison into the air. The dog died instantly, and the teen recovered after being rushed to the hospital. His parents are suing Wildlife Services, which resulted in the agency agreeing to temporarily stop using M-44s in Colorado and Idaho. In May, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed a law banning the use of M-44s in the state.
M-44s often target coyotes and foxes, with Wildlife Services killing these livestock predators to help private farmers and ranchers. The EPA said there will be some new rules in place, like not placing M-44s within 100 feet of public roads or trails. A final decision on the use of M-44s won't be made until after 2021.