Agency Promised Public in 2016 that it would stop placing them on Public Lands
BOISE, Ida. — The cyanide bomb that recently killed a family dog in Pocatello, Idaho and poisoned his 14-year-old owner violated government assurances that such poison devices would no longer be used to kill predators on federal public lands in Idaho. A 2016 decision by multiple agencies banned the use of these devices, known as “M-44s,” on all federal land in the state.
“The Bannock County sheriff’s department verified by phone with us today that GPS coordinates for the M-44 involved in the incident place the device on Bureau of Land Management land, despite a decision banning the use of these devices on federal public lands,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “It never should have been there at all.”
A plan for killing predators in Idaho on behalf of the ranching industry was signed late last year by the State, federal government, and Native American tribes, all agreeing to discontinue the use of the explosive cyanide devices on public lands. This poison and other toxins, originally banned during the Nixon administration but subsequently reinstated, had been authorized under a national plan that was decades old. Western Watersheds Project and other environmental groups successfully argued that the use of these chemicals for predator control should be reconsidered, which led to Wildlife Services’ decision to reduce their use.
“M-44s and other traps and toxic chemicals that Wildlife Services uses to kill predators are a public safety hazard,” said Talasi Brooks of Advocates for the West. “If Wildlife Services is putting these devices in places where people recreate or walk their dogs, the public deserves to know about it.”
On other land ownerships, Wildlife Services continues to use cyanide and other poisons at the request of farmers and ranchers to reduce livestock losses. However, these devices are not selective and kill a wide variety of non-target wildlife. Rare species such as lynx, wolverines, and bald eagles, are killed every year. Tragically, the annual list of unintended targets also includes family pets.
“The incredibly dangerous devices kill indiscriminately, and deaths of pets are common,” said Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense. “Unless there are witnesses agencies often don’t record the poisonings. Families are than left to wonder what happened to their dog.”
Last year, agencies spent $99 million in taxpayer dollars to kill 2,744,010 black bears, coyotes, mountain lions, birds, wolves, and other native wildlife species. Almost 77,000 of these animals were coyotes. Of these, 16% were poisoned by M-44s. There is evidence, however, that killing predators only reduces their numbers temporarily and, in the case of coyotes, may even encourage higher rates of reproduction and dispersal. Non-lethal methods of predator control such as guard animals, loud noises, bright flashing lights, and fencing, may be more successful without the problems associated with lethal control.
“Federal agencies need to stop planting poison land-mines that endanger the public, and asking society to accept cruel and inhumane slaughter of native wildlife simply to subsidize a dwindling livestock industry,” Molvar concluded.
Advocates for the West is a nonprofit environmental law firm that uses law and science to restore streams and watersheds, protect public lands and wildlife, and ensure sustainable communities throughout the American West.
Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental group dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and legal advocacy.
Predator Defense is a nonprofit advocacy group working to protect native predators and end America’s war on wildlife.