20 Environmental Groups Jointly Demand Wildlife Services Ban M-44 Cyanide Bombs in Idaho

(EnviroNews Idaho) — On March 28, 2017, a coalition of wildlife and conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services (WS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to immediately ban M-44 devices in Idaho. M-44s are cyanide bombs used by WS to kill local predators such as coyotes, as part of a larger taxpayer-funded wildlife eradication campaign wherein WS, on behalf of the federal government, slaughters millions of wild animals every single year.

The recent hospitalization of a youth and killing of a family dog in Idaho who encountered one of these ground weapons near their home was one motivator for the creation of this petition. The document lists many other incidents of indiscriminate pet injuries and killings by M-44s in Appendix A.

The petition specifically calls on the agencies to:

1. Cease all use of M-44 explosive cyanide devices on all land ownerships in the State of Idaho, and
2. Immediately remove any and all M-44s currently deployed on all land ownerships in Idaho.

In November 2016, WS committed to cease the use of M-44s on Idaho’s public lands. Also, in 2016, a workplan between WS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Idaho Falls District forbade the placement of these devices within a quarter mile of residences.

The recent incident with the teen and his pet occurred within a quarter mile of his home. The petition concludes this incident shows the “commitment to cease using M-44s on public lands in Idaho is inadequate to protect public safety and wildlife,” because either WS personnel are not carrying out the commitment or older bombs are still present on public land.

“Cyanide bombs are indiscriminate killers that must be banned,” Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “Any animal that might pull on the baited trigger is at risk, including endangered wildlife like Canada lynx and grizzlies, as well as people and pets. And in just the past few weeks these cruel devices have injured a child and killed an endangered wolf and several family dogs. Enough is enough.”

The petition explains:

Since 2000, Wildlife Services has killed more than 50,000 members of more than 150 non-target species, including federally and/or state-protected animals such as Mexican gray wolves, grizzly bears, kangaroo rats, eagles, falcons, California condors, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, armadillos, pronghorns, porcupines, long-tailed weasels, javelinas, marmots, snapping turtles, turkey vultures, great blue herons, ruddy ducks, sandhill cranes and ringtail cats.

The petition also discusses how the cyanide bombs and other non-selective killing methods are actually unproductive because they disrupt ecosystem balances, can actually increase livestock losses and have not been shown to be economically effective.

Bethany Cotton, Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians, previously asserted to EnviroNews that “many ranchers peacefully coexist with coyotes and report no conflicts,” and that nonlethal predator response options include solar powered electric fencing and livestock dogs, amongst others.

“Ranchers can use less vulnerable types of livestock, hang flagging called ‘fladry,’ or actually put cowboys out there with their animals to discourage predator losses without resorting to demands for poisons and poisonous land mines that kill pets and non-target wildlife,” Erik Molvar, Executive Director of the Western Watersheds Project, told EnviroNews. He signed the petition on behalf of the coalition of environmental groups. “It is senseless and irresponsible for federal agencies to use taxpayer dollars to sow land mines and poisons in open country to kill native wildlife to prop up failing ranching operations,” he stated.

Federal law requires the petitioned agencies to provide a final decision in writing to the petitioners: Western Watersheds Project, Predator Defense, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Wildlife Conservancy, Nevada Wildlife Alliance, Gallatin Wildlife Association, Environmental Protection Information Center, the Wolf Conservation Center, Wilderness Watch, Klamath Forest Alliance, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, Footloose Montana, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote, Voices of Wildlife and the Mountain Lion Foundation.

In related news, federal congressman, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) told EnviroNews in a one-on-one exclusive yesterday that he plans on running legislation to ban the use of M-44s, as well as the poison Compound 1080, for any predator control efforts throughout the entire U.S. He described M-44s as “inhumane” and “totally indiscriminate and unnecessary devices,” and compound 1080 as an “odorless, colorless, antidote-less poison” which, as a residual poison, can result in not only dead predators, but dead sheep and scavengers as well. DeFazio also stated that Wildlife Services doesn’t “understand biology and never tries to use non-lethal methods, and what they end up doing is making the problem worse at public expense.”

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