What are the negative impacts of using 'cyanide bombs'? Bureau of Land Management ends use of poisonous powder to kill coyotes and other predators
In a significant move, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its plan to stop using cyanide bombs on its land. For those unaware, these bombs are also called M-44 devices and they won't be used on BLM's nearly 400,000 square miles of managed land.
This decision came to light on November 29, 2023, and followed the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, responsible for deploying these controversial traps.
This poisonous gas has severe negative impacts and causes pollution when it is released into the environment. This gas not only kills animals but has also resulted in injuring humans in the past.
Severe negative impacts of using cyanide bombs include long-term pollution, among other things
The deadly gas has been used since 1970 to get rid of foxes and coyotes. However, it did more damage than expected. As per Fast Company, critics have stated that when sodium cyanide gas is released into the air, it has a long-term impact on the environment.
Other than this, the M-44 devices, which activists denounce as cyanide bombs, have faced scrutiny for their unintended consequences on non-predator wildlife, including endangered species and domestic pets.
The traps operate by ejecting sodium cyanide when triggered by physical disturbance, emitting a poisonous cloud of sodium cyanide. The ban on M-44s is effective immediately, but either party can reverse it with 60 days' notice, according to the MOU.
In a press release, the agency mentioned:
"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 use of M-44s has led to the unintentional deaths of thousands of animals, including endangered species and pets. Poor markings and inconsistent signage have led to situations where individuals, unaware of the danger, have mistaken these devices for harmless objects.
When did the public outcry over the use of cyanide bombs begin?
The public outcry over the use of cyanide bombs began when Canyon Mansfield's pet dog Casey was killed in Pocatello, Idaho, in 2017. The 14-year-old also sustained injuries when he accidentally set off one of these devices, which was on public land about 400 feet away from his home. In 2020, the Justice Department admitted Wildlife Services' negligence and agreed to pay the family $38,500 to settle the lawsuit.
Democratic Representative Jared Huffman from California, who is leading the effort to stop the use of M-44s on state and federal land, named the current version of the bill "Canyon's Law," after Mansfield.
As per Fortune, Huffman praised the recent decision by the bureau, saying:
“Cyanide bombs are cruel and dangerous for pets, people, and wildlife. They don't belong on our public lands.”
According to Brooks Fahy from Predator Defense, past attempts in Congress to ban cyanide bombs had not gained much support in the last 15 years. However, he noted that the Mansfield case brought significant attention to the matter, likening it to a major shift in the political landscape.
After the incident involving Canyon Mansfield, Wildlife Services agreed to stop using M-44s in Idaho. Oregon banned them two years later, and New Mexico followed suit with a partial ban. Despite these positive steps, several states, including Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming, still permit the use of M-44s.
Wayne Pacelle, the President of Animal Wellness Action, highlighted the successful efforts in California and Washington over two decades ago. He emphasized that the bureau's decision should prompt a reevaluation of policies in other land management agencies.