EPA reau­tho­rizes ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill preda­tors

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De­spite strong op­po­si­tion from en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and oth­ers, the fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency an­nounced this past week that it had reau­tho­rized the use of spring-loaded poi­son de­vices known as “cyanide bombs” to kill coy­otes, foxes and other an­i­mals that prey on live­stock.

The de­vices, of­fi­cially called M-44s, have been used con­tin­u­ously for more than four decades by Wildlife Ser­vices, a pro­gram within the U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture. When a preda­tor stum­bles across one of th­ese de­vices, a cap­sule con­tain­ing sodium cyanide, a highly toxic pes­ti­cide, is ejected into its mouth.

In Au­gust 2017, the WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity filed a law­suit that asked the EPA to ban the use of sodium cyanide, gen­er­at­ing a re­view of the pro­gram. On Tues­day, the agency an­nounced it would con­tinue us­ing M-44s on an in­terim ba­sis, but would toughen re­stric­tions based on its re­view.

Last year, the de­vices killed more than 6,500 an­i­mals across the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture. More than 200 of the an­i­mals killed – in­clud­ing foxes, rac­coons, opos­sums, skunks, swine and a black bear – were un­in­ten­tional tar­gets of the cyanide bombs, ac­cord­ing to the de­part­ment.

Sev­eral states have banned or lim­ited the de­vices’ use, in­clud­ing Ore­gon, Idaho and Colorado.

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