Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 10, 2017

Contact:  Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821,
Kelly Nokes, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 209-9545,

Nationwide Ban Sought on Wildlife-killing M-44 'Cyanide Bombs'

Indiscriminate Devices Injure People, Kill Pets, Wildlife

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and several other wildlife conservation groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency today to outlaw M-44s, commonly known as “cyanide bombs,” which cause agonizing deaths for thousands of animals every year.

The devices are used to kill coyotes, foxes and wild dogs, purportedly to address conflicts with livestock. But they also pose the risks of accidental injury and death for people, family dogs and imperiled wildlife. In response, the federal government has proposed bigger warning signs — an unproven and completely inadequate measure.

“Cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that just can't be used safely,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center. “We're not fooled by the feds' ridiculous suggestion that bigger warning signs could somehow keep cyanide traps from hurting people, pets and imperiled wildlife. A permanent nationwide ban is the only answer.”

The EPA has registered sodium cyanide for use in M-44s by Wildlife Services — the U.S. Department of Agriculture's wildlife-killing program — as well as by certain state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas. The devices are intended to protect livestock by spraying deadly sodium cyanide into the mouths of unsuspecting coyotes, foxes and other carnivores lured by smelly bait.

Yet anything or anyone that pulls on the baited M-44 device can be killed or severely injured by the deadly spray. M-44s temporarily blinded a child and killed three family dogs in two separate incidents in Idaho and Wyoming in March. A wolf was accidentally killed by an M-44 set in Oregon in February.

“The federal government has a paramount duty to protect people and wildlife from deadly poisons that unnecessarily endanger the public, wildlife and companion animals,” said Kelly Nokes, carnivore advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “Given the wide array of nonlethal, effective conflict management tools available today, the use of dangerous and indiscriminate M-44s should immediately and permanently cease.”

According to USDA Wildlife Services' own data, M-44s killed 13,530 animals, mostly coyotes and foxes, in 2016. Of these 321 deaths were nontarget animals, including family dogs, a black bear, opossums, raccoons, skunks and a fisher.

This interactive map shows how many nontarget animals of each species died from exposure to M-44s between 2010 and 2016. Unfortunately, these numbers are likely a significant undercount of the true death toll, as Wildlife Services is notorious for poor data collection and an entrenched “shoot, shovel, shut up” mentality. Learn more about the animals killed by M-44s.

WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity authored the petition and are joined in their call for a nationwide ban on M-44s by Advocates for the West, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Born Free USA, the Endangered Species Coalition, the Humane Society of the United States, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Predator Defense, Project Coyote, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Sierra Club, the Southwest Environmental Center, Western Environmental Law Center, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network and the Wolf Conservation Center. Together the groups represent millions of Americans who want to see an end to the use of deadly M-44 cyanide traps.


Coyote photo by Tom Koerner, USFWS. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit conservation organization with over 200,000 members and supporters working to protect and restore wildlife, wild places, wild rivers and health of the American West.

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