FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 22, 2023
Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 520-6003, firstname.lastname@example.org
"Cyanide Bombs" Banned on 245 Million Acres of Public Lands by U.S. Department of the Interior
Ban will protect people, pets and wildlife from indiscriminate M-44 devices used for predator control on BLM lands
EUGENE, OR - Predator Defense is pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of the Interior has banned the use of M-44 devices, commonly known as ‘‘cyanide bombs,’’ on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This includes over 245 million acres, roughly a tenth of the nation's land mass. M-44s are spring-loaded ejectors armed with cyanide powder long used by government agents for predator control. They have injured many people to date, and inhumanely killed thousands of animals every year, including endangered species and pets.
“I am immensely relieved that countless people and animals will now be spared death and poisoning on a huge portion of the American landscape," said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a national wildlife advocacy group. "Working with victims of M-44 tragedies for over 30 years, I've seen what these indiscriminate devices do to families who have lost beloved pets, been poisoned themselves, or potentially lost a child. I commend the Interior Department for making BLM lands immeasurably safer."
BLM is the only agency within the Interior Department that uses M-44s to target predators like coyotes. They are not used on lands administered by the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the Bureau of Reclamation. However, M-44 use continues on U.S Forest Service lands, which are managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and span 193,000,000 acres. They are also placed on private property by owner request.
Most M-44s are placed by agents of Wildlife Services, the USDA's animal-killing program. According to Wildlife Services’ data, in 2022 the program poisoned approximately 6,000 animals with M-44s in 10 states: Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming. State agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas are also authorized to use M-44s.
The public repeatedly expresses surprise that these dangerous devices continue to be used, especially after a well-known tragedy in 2017 in Pocatello, Idaho. Canyon Mansfield was 14 years old when he inadvertently triggered an M-44 device, thinking it was a sprinkler head. The M-44 had been illegally set on BLM land on a hill behind his home. It killed Canyon's dog, Kasey, and injured him. Canyon was believed to have been spared from death because of the wind’s direction. The Mansfield family is thrilled by the BLM ban on M-44 use, but continues to push for a comprehensive ban.
"We are so happy to finally see one federal government department banning another's reckless and indiscriminate actions, telling Wildlife Services their use of these barbaric and antiquated devices must stop," said Dr. Mark Mansfield, Canyon's father. "We celebrate this critical move forward--ridding BLM lands of cyanide bombs. But there is more to do. Congress must enact 'Canyon's Law' as a final act to ban M-44s on all public lands in America."
The current version of Canyon's Law, which originated in 2019 in response to the Mansfield family's tragedy, would ban M-44s on all public lands--federal, state and local. It was reintroduced in both houses of Congress in June 2023.
Today's BLM ban came about in response to a formal letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, sent in October 2022 by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and former Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) at the urging of Predator Defense. In it the Congressmen noted that the Interior Department had expressed openness to banning M-44s in their testimony to a Congressional subcommittee. The Congressmen urged they take immediate action to prevent future tragedies. Rep. Huffman followed up on this letter in 2023 after receiving status queries from Predator Defense, as the letter had appeared to languish. This month the Interior Department finally formalized their decision. Initial notice from Interior Department | Rep. Huffman's press release
Boosting work at the federal level, public demand for a ban has increased over time and is largely attributed to major media coverage of M-44 tragedies and popular statewide bans on the West Coast. Concurrent pressure has been applied by conservation organizations, e.g., the 2023 APA petition jointly filed by Predator Defense and the Center for Biodiversity and signed by over 70 conservation groups.
"We are deeply grateful to Representative Huffman for pushing the BLM ban over the finish line," said Fahy. "And since the Interior Department sees the wisdom of banning cyanide bombs, surely the USDA can, too. It’s high time our government steps up and stops putting people's and animals' lives at risk. They could save a lot of time, money and suffering by banning all M-44 use immediately."