Trump administration reauthorises use of ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill wild animals

  • >>Mariel Padilla, The New York Times
    Published: 2019-08-11 12:22:57 BdST

Coyotes are among the main target of devices meant to kill animals that prey on livestock. The New York Times

Despite strong opposition from environmentalists and others, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced this past week that it had reauthorised 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 US 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 Centre 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.

The Centre for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the decision to reauthorise the devices, saying that they “inhumanely and indiscriminately” kill thousands of animals every year.

When the EPA proposed the renewed use of M-44s at the end of 2018, the public was invited to submit comments through March 2019. More than 20,000 letters were submitted in opposition to the proposal, “an overwhelming majority,” according to the EPA’s decision.

Many people argued that there were safer alternatives available, that the M-44s killed non-targeted wildlife and that too many pets and people were accidentally exposed to the devices in residential areas.

Although in the minority, some groups wrote in favour of the devices, according to the EPA’s review. These included the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association and the Texas Wildlife Damage Management Association. According to the review, these concerns emphasised how much money was lost when livestock was killed by coyotes and foxes and argued that M-44s were an important protection.

© 2019 New York Times News Service