WASHINGTON— A bill introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) seeks to ban the use of wildlife-killing M-44 devices, commonly known as ‘‘cyanide bombs,’’ on federal public lands. These deadly devices — spring-loaded capsules armed with cyanide spray — have injured people and inhumanely killed thousands of animals every year.
“Working closely with M-44 victims for almost 30 years, I have witnessed what these indiscriminate devices have done to families,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a national wildlife advocacy group. “Countless people have lost beloved pets, and both children and adults have been poisoned. The emotional scars are permanent. Since M-44s can never be used safely, they must be banned. A federal public lands ban is a great start.”
HR 4951, known as “Canyon’s Law,” was first introduced in 2017 following a string of tragic incidents involving M-44s. Canyon Mansfield was 14 years old at the time an M-44 device exploded near his home in Pocatello, Idaho, killing his dog and injuring the teen.
“Cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that have caused too much harm to remain in use on our public lands,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Congress should pass this bill to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from this poison.”
In late 2019 the Trump administration announced it would reauthorize the use of sodium cyanide in M-44s despite overwhelming public support for a nationwide ban. The Environmental Protection Agency allows use of the devices by Wildlife Services, the animal-killing program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The EPA also authorizes M-44 use by state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas.
“Wildlife Services’ refusal to end the use of M-44 sodium cyanide devices shows both an unwillingness to transition away from archaic lethal methods, as well as a cruel indifference to the threats posed to people, pets and wildlife,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “These dangerous devices have no place on America’s public lands. We urge Congress to stand up to Wildlife Services and end the use of this antiquated, inhumane method.”
“M-44 ‘cyanide bombs’ have caused immense and unnecessary suffering across our nation’s public lands, harming people, pets and wildlife,” said Carson Barylak, campaigns manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “Canyon Mansfield courageously took up the fight to ban these devices after experiencing their devastating impacts firsthand, and leaders in Congress must now ensure that this important public-safety bill becomes law.”
According to Wildlife Services’ own data, the program poisoned 7,691 animals in 2020 using M-44 cyanide bombs. More than 200 of these animals were killed unintentionally, including a black bear, five dogs and dozens of foxes. The program’s use of M-44s has declined slightly since 2019, when it used M-44s to kill 8,200 animals.