Every year the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program spends millions of taxpayer dollars on lethal predator control. A portion of the program’s substantial expenditures is dedicated to poisoning wildlife with an extremely dangerous and indiscriminate poisons: sodium cyanide, which is used in M-44 devices. The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act would ban the use of sodium cyanide in federal predator control programs.
Sodium Cyanide M-44 Devices
M-44s are baited, spring-activated devices that contain deadly sodium cyanide. When an animal, attracted by the bait, pulls on the poisoned trap, the M-44 propels sodium cyanide into his or her mouth, thereby poisoning and killing the animal.
M-44 devices have the following brutal effects:
- Cause severe, unnecessary pain and suffering. When an animal triggers an M-44, the sodium cyanide reacts with the moisture in the animal’s mouth or nostrils to produce toxic fumes, exposure to which causes substantial suffering (including convulsions, foaming at the mouth, pulmonary edema, paralysis) and, ultimately, death.6
- Kill indiscriminately. M-44s are nonselective, and often kill nontarget wildlife, including protected species such as wolves, grizzly bears, swift foxes, lynxes, raptors, and black-footed ferrets. The USDA acknowledges that there are hundreds of unintended wildlife deaths every year as a result of these devices, and these numbers are likely gross underestimates.7
- Threaten humans and pets. M-44s have killed family pets across the country and have caused severe, irreparable harm to people who have been exposed. In the spring of 2017 alone, three family dogs are confirmed to have died from these devices. An Idaho boy was exposed to cyanide and watched his dog die after they inadvertently tripped a capsule planted by Wildlife Services only a few hundred yards from their home. Two dogs in Wyoming died similarly brutal, unnecessary deaths. And these are not isolated incidents. In 2011, a Texas family lost its beloved dog to an M-44 set by Wildlife Services just 918 feet from the family’s home. In addition, families in West Virginia and Nebraska each lost pets to the same fate the previous year, and similar incidents have been reported across the United States. Humans who have been exposed to sodium cyanide released by M-44s, either while trying to rescue pets or through other inadvertent contact, have experienced debilitating health effects and suffered chronic maladies.
1. Atzert, S.P. 1971. A Review of Sodium Monofluoroacetate (Compound 1080): Its Properties, Toxicology, and Use in Predator and Rodent Control. US Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.
2. See, for example, Watson, M. 1990. Rancher Use of Livestock Protection Collars in Texas. Proceedings of the Fourteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference 277–280.
3. US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. 1998. Technical Bulletin: Compound 1080 Livestock Protection Collar.
4. US Environmental Protection Agency. 1995. Registration Eligibility Decision (RED): Sodium Fluoroacetate, EPA 738-R-95-025.
5. US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. 1998. Technical Bulletin: Compound 1080 Livestock Protection Collar.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sodium Cyanide: Systemic Agent, available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/EmergencyResponseCard_29750036.html.
7. See Predator Defense. 2012. Federal Statistics: Animal Deaths from M-44s and Compound 1080 in 2010.