- A bill eliminating a serious public safety threat that is commonly called a "cyanide bomb" was
signed into law today by Governor Kate Brown. SB 580 bans all
sodium cyanide-dispersing devices
used for predator control in Oregon. The bill sailed through the state legislature with almost unanimous support (Senate vote 25-3 and House vote 53-6). SB 580's passage could encourage the 13 other states currently using M-44s to see the importance of following Oregon's lead.
"This is a vital public safety issue that has been addressed," said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. "M-44s are planted like land mines around Oregon and other states. They must be universally banned before a child is killed."
"Victories that protect wildlife and public health are hard to come by in the Oregon legislature," said Danielle Moser, Wildlife Program Coordinator for Oregon Wild. "We applaud the bipartisan acknowledgment that these egregious cyanide devices have no place on the Oregon landscape."
M-44s are both lethal and indiscriminate. The reason they cannot be deployed safely is because no child, pet or wild animal can read warning signs and there is virtually no place in the great outdoors they do not go. M-44s have already killed countless dogs and wildlife and injured a number of people in Oregon and beyond. They led to a Utah man's long-term disability and death. They also just missed killing a boy from Pocatello, Idaho in March 2017.
The Idaho tragedy could just have easily have happened in Oregon or any other state using M-44s.
It occurred when 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield took a walk on a hill behind his house with his dog and touched an unmarked device in the grass that looked like a sprinkler head. A cloud of orange powder dispersed and was inhaled by his dog, who died an agonizing death in front of him. Canyon missed death due to wind direction, but suffered severe side effects and is being closely monitored. The Mansfield family was outraged and horrified and quickly became activists for banning M-44 devices. They've since traveled to Washington, D.C. twice with the national wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense to urge legislators to support a bill to ban M-44s across the country. Called the Chemical Poisons Reduction Act, it will be introduced by Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Oreg) within a few weeks. The bill is nicknamed "Canyon's Law."
"Far too many target and non-target animals have died inhumane deaths because of these devices," said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for Audubon Society of Portland. "Hopefully Oregon may be helping the way to a nationwide ban on these devices."
M-44s remain in use for predator control in Nevada, Utah, Colorado (only on private land), Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia. They were banned around 20 years ago in Washington and California. Idaho placed a temporary moratorium on M-44 use in 2017.
In September 2018 close to 100
victims/survivors, physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and other affected parties
joined Eugene-based Predator Defense in urging Oregon wildlife managers to address this critical public safety issue by ending the
use of M-44s statewide and removing all devices currently deployed.
These parties sent a detailed petition/letter under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) to the Oregon and Western Region directors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services, the federal program responsible for using M-44s in Oregon. They shared the lethal hazard M-44s pose to people, pets and native wildlife, the strong public sentiment against them, and the questionable economic benefits of programs that deploy them. In short, they explained why M-44 use is unjustifiable and counter to the public interest. Wildlife Services directors' denied the petitioners' request and in so doing demonstrated a willful denial of reality on the ground.
According to Brooks Fahy, who has worked with M-44 victims for almost 30 years--both investigating the incidents and helping victims deal with the agencies and the aftermath--a few of the realities that Wildlife Services isn't facing include:
Given this first-hand experience, Predator Defense did not give up on achieving an Oregon ban. After learning that a Eugene Weekly article about the APA petition had inspired
Oregon Senator Floyd Prozanski to author a bill to ban M-44s statewide (SB 580), Predator Defense rallied colleagues at The Humane Society of the United States, Oregon Wild and Audubon Society of Portland to support the bill. The groups sent M-44 victims, experts and key spokespeople to testify at state House and Senate hearings in support of SB 580.
"M-44s not only present an unacceptable risk to people, pets and wildlife, they are also outdated, unnecessary, and ecologically unsound," noted Kelly Peterson, Oregon Senior State Director for The Humane Society of the United States. "We applaud Oregon's legislators for their leadership in ending M-44 use statewide."
"The eradication of M-44s from Oregon's landscape is so welcome," said Danielle Clair, an Oregon resident who testified at both Senate and House hearings in support of SB 580. "But it is 17 years too late for my best buddy and love, Oberon, my 7-year-old Great Dane/German shepherd who died by cyanide sodium poisoning in 2002. I can't think of this as justice, as there is no return from such trauma. But making people, pets and wildlife in Oregon safe from these devices will be an unmitigated success story."
"The news that M-44s are finally banned in Oregon has brought me to tears," said Amanda Kingsley, former Oregon resident and M-44 victim who testified at the SB 580 House hearing. "It's been 25 years since my dog Ruby was poisoned by one on my own property, and M-44s have continued to cause so much senseless suffering and death. I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to end the use of these horrible devices. And I'm thrilled we can now say: 'We did it!' "
"We are especially grateful to Senator Prozanski and Representative Gomberg for championing this essential public safety bill through the legislature," said Fahy. "Oregonians will again be able to enjoy the great outdoors without fears of losing their dog or their child to M-44 poisoning."
USDA Wildlife Services has objected to the use of the word "bomb" in reference to M-44s. But members of the public started calling M-44s "cyanide bombs" because they act as such per common dictionary definitions, which boil down to containers filled with a destructive substance designed to explode on impact or when detonated. M-44s are filled with powdery sodium cyanide poison. Their spring-activated ejectors spew the poison into the air in a cloud. The ejectors' force can spray the cyanide up to five feet. They are deadly devices, and to the public the definition of bomb fits.
- SB 580 - Oregon bill that prohibits use of cyanide devices to control wildlife, sponsored by Senator Floyd Prozanski and Representative David Gomberg
- Hearing testimony & exhibits in support of SB 580 - provided by victims and experts for 2/28/19 hearing with Oregon Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and 4/11/19 hearing with Oregon House Committee on Natural Resources
- APA Petition/Letter to Oregon and Western Region USDA Wildlife Services' directors that inspired SB 580 - signed by close to 100 affected individuals and organizations, including victims/survivors, veterinarians, physicians, scientists, and more. Letter includes the following Appendices:
- "EXPOSED: USDA's Secret War on Wildlife" - a documentary Jane Goodall wants millions to see, featuring government whistleblowers revealing how they were told not to post warning signs or record non-target species kills when using M-44s for predator control.
- Trailer for 'Lethal Control,' a heart-wrenching new film featuring several M-44 victims and survivors assisted by Predator Defense
- Learn more about M-44s, their victims, and the public safety risk they pose