The welfare of many coyotes, foxes and other wildlife in the United States could be in danger if they encounter M-44 devices, which have recently been reauthorized for use by the EPA. M-44s, also known as chemical traps or “cyanide bombs” by some, are used to kill these types of animals, typically to protect livestock for ranchers and farmers.

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The devices are primarily used by Wildlife Services, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to trap the animals via bait and then release cyanide into their mouths. M-44s are also approved for use by state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas.

Related: US will temporarily halt use of cyanide bombs to kill Colorado wildlife

Why now? In 2018, the EPA proposed to return to the use of sodium cyanide but waited until March 2019 to give time for public opinion. More than 99.9 percent of comments asked for the EPA to ban M-44s, according to an analysis by The Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center.

Various environmental groups, including The Center for Biological Diversity, are calling for a nationwide ban on the M-44s, citing the devices are inhumane and can also injure humans.

“The overwhelming majority of comments from the general public, including the more than 20,0000 [sic] letters from the write-in campaign, did not support the continued registration of sodium cyanide predacide uses (M-44 devices),” the EPA wrote in its proposal. Those against the devices cited the dangers to residential areas and ecological concerns.

With the reauthorization of the devices, the EPA also updated a new set of restrictions to hopefully reduce accidents. For example, M-44s cannot be placed within 100 feet of public roads or pathways, which is an increase from the previous 50 feet. Also, raised warning signs must be positioned within 15 feet of each device, decreased from 25 feet. Those living within a half-mile of an M-44 device will need to be properly alerted.

“Cyanide traps can’t be used safely by anyone, anywhere,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at The Center for Biological Diversity. “While the EPA added some restrictions, these deadly devices have caused too much harm to remain in use. We need a permanent nationwide ban to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from this poison.”

Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said, “Warning signs will not prevent more dogs, wild animals and potentially children from being killed. They cannot read them. M-44s are a safety menace and must be banned.”

Wildlife Services’ data reports M-44s killed 6,579 animals in 2018 and more than 200 deaths were non-target animals, such as opossums, raccoons, skunks and a bear.

+ Center for Biological Diversity

Via CBS News

Image via Bruce Tunget