The Bureau of Land Management is ending the practice of using 'cyanide bombs' to kill species.
M-44 spring-loaded traps filled with cyanide have been used for species management for decades.
However, critics have noted that the traps harm other animals, including endangered species.
The US Bureau of Land Management says it will no longer use spring-loaded traps full of cyanide on its land — a small win for wildlife activists and advocates concerned with pet and human safety.
In a press release, the agency says it is "taking action" to remove M-44 devices — colloquially known as "cyanide bombs" by activists — off the list of wildlife management techniques that can be used on the nearly 400,000 square miles of land that it manages.
To do this, the agency said it renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, which is responsible for setting the traps. According to the Associated Press, which obtained the MOU, the M-44 ban is effective immediately, but either side can reverse the decision with 60 days' notice.
"The BLM's decision to ban M-44s that deliver sodium cyanide on public lands follows existing bans or use-limitations in Idaho, Oregon, California, and Washington," the agency wrote in the release.
The M-44 ejector devices that critics call "cyanide bombs" have unintentionally killed thousands of pets and non-predator wildlife, including endangered species, according to the US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services. They have a scented bait and emit a poisonous cloud when triggered by a physical disturbance.
Other federal agencies — including the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service — already prohibit the devices. But the Forest Service and 10 states still use them in some form.
M-44s consist of a stake driven into the ground with a spring and canister loaded with the chemical. Marked inconsistently and sometimes not at all, humans have mistaken them for sprinkler heads or survey markers.
Wildlife Services has used M-44s to control predators, mainly in the West, since the 1930s. The American Sheep Industry Association and National Cattlemen's Beef Association were among 100 industry groups that wrote to Congress this year, stressing the importance of the program. They said predators cause more than $232 million in livestock losses annually.
About a dozen people have been seriously harmed over the past 25 years by M-44s on federal lands, according to Predator Defense.
Between 2000-16, Wildlife Services reported 246,985 animals killed by M-44s, including at least 1,182 dogs. From 2014-22, the agency said M-44s intentionally killed 88,000 animals and unintentionally killed more than 2,000 animals.
The BLM cited two examples of instances where a cyanide bomb resulted in the injury of a person, including one incident that occurred on BLM-managed land. The other incident, which happened in Idaho, involved a boy named Canyon Mansfield.
Public outcry over the devices grew after a family dog was killed in 2017 in Pocatello, Idaho, and Mansfield, then 14, was injured after accidentally triggering a device placed on public land about 400 feet from their home. In 2020, the federal government admitted negligence and agreed to pay the family $38,500 to resolve a lawsuit.
"We are so happy to finally see one federal government department banning another's reckless and indiscriminate actions," Mansfield's father, Mark Mansfield, said last week.
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