Wildlife-Killing Cyanide Bombs Banned on Lands Managed by Federal Agency

Photo from Flickr by Henry

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) welcomed a decision last week by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to ban wildlife-killing M-44 devices, commonly known as “cyanide bombs,” across 245 million acres of BLM-managed lands.

M-44s are predator control devices, used primarily to kill thousands of coyotes each year. When triggered, the spring-loaded device ejects sodium cyanide into the animals’ mouths, causing immense suffering before death. These devices are indiscriminate, attracting other victims as well, including endangered species and family pets. M-44s have also injured several people and pose a grave danger to children.

“BLM lands provide vitally important habitat for thousands of species and recreational opportunities for millions of Americans,” said Johanna Hamburger, director and senior attorney for AWI’s terrestrial wildlife program. “This decision is an important step towards humanely managing wildlife and improving visitor safety across some of our country’s most cherished landscapes.”

The BLM’s decision primarily affects Western states and follows a years-long sustained effort by federal lawmakers, AWI, and other animal protection and conservation groups to prohibit M-44s on all federal public lands. In June, US Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), and US Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) reintroduced “Canyon’s Law,” which seeks a blanket ban on the use of M-44 devices on America’s public lands. The bill has been referred to the relevant House and Senate committees with no hearing date scheduled.

The legislation was first introduced in 2017, following a horrific incident in which an M-44 device exploded near the home of 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield in Pocatello, Idaho, killing his dog and injuring the teen. Since that time, multiple states have enacted bans or limitations on M-44s.

Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency has continued to allow use of the devices by Wildlife Services, a program within the US Department of Agriculture responsible for killing millions of animals each year on behalf of agricultural interests. According to Wildlife Services’ own data, the program poisoned more than 6,000 animals in 2022 using M-44 cyanide bombs. More than 150 of these animals were killed unintentionally, including at least two dogs and dozens of foxes. The program’s use of M-44s has declined since 2017, when it used M-44s to kill more than 13,200 animals.

The EPA also authorizes M-44 use by several state agencies, despite the availability of effective, scientifically sound, and safer nonlethal alternatives. These include the use of electric fences, guard animals, strobe lights, and night penning.

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.