Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 7, 2016

Contact: Nathan Donley, (971) 717-6406,

EPA Restricts Use of Eight Pesticides to Protect Endangered Species

PORTLAND, Ore.— The Environmental Protection Agency today took much-needed action to protect endangered species by restricting the use of eight pesticide products used to kill burrowing animals. The restrictions are limited only to areas where the protected species live. Gas-cartridge products will now be restricted in the habitat of the gopher tortoise, Hualapai Mexican vole, Mount Graham red squirrel and Utah prairie dog.

“This is a good first step by the EPA to follow the law and protect imperiled species from the harmful effects of gas cartridges,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But there are still many other pesticides that need similar restrictions.”

Gas cartridges are widely used by farmers, rangers and the controversial federal program known as Wildlife Services to kill burrowing mammals such as coyotes, red foxes and skunks. Users of gas cartridges light a fuse, place the cartridge in the burrow or den and seal the entrance. Animals within the burrow or den are then asphyxiated by the release of carbon dioxide and other toxic gases. Today’s action by the EPA is designed to curtail the enormous threat these devices pose to endangered species that live in the underground areas where the devices are used.

“Restricting the use of these ultra-hazardous pesticides is a good first step toward ensuring that pesticide use does not harm endangered or threatened species,” said Donley. “We hope to see this become commonplace as the EPA begins to comply with the Endangered Species Act.”

The geographical restrictions, which are for eight gas cartridge products containing sodium and potassium nitrate, carbon and carbon dioxide, and sulfur, will become enforceable by June 2017.

The newly restricted gas cartridges are a primary tool of Wildlife Services, a secretive arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that kills wildlife largely to benefit the livestock industry and other agribusinesses. Last year the program killed more than 3.2 million animals, according to its own data. That data shows that during fiscal year 2015, Wildlife Services killed 68,905 coyotes and an unknown number of pups in 492 destroyed dens. The program also killed 20,777 prairie dogs outright, plus an unknown number killed in more than 59,000 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated with gas cartridges.

Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate killing of millions of animals annually has many damaging impacts on the environment. Peer-reviewed research shows that such reckless slaughter of animals — particularly predators — results in broad ecological destruction and loss of biodiversity. The program has been responsible for the countless deaths of threatened and endangered species, as well as family pets.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back