Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 4, 2017

Contact:  Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821,
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 414-7227,
Samantha Miller, The Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals, (240) 672-2361,  

Lawsuit Filed to Save Imperiled Native Carnivores From Deadly 'Cyanide Bombs'

Restrictions Sought on Poisons That Recently Killed Oregon Wolf, Three Family Dogs in Idaho, Wyoming

WASHINGTON— Four conservation and animal-welfare groups sued the Trump administration today for failing to protect endangered species from two deadly pesticides used to kill coyotes and other native carnivores.

The lawsuit seeks common-sense measures to prevent unintended deaths from Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide used in M-44s — also known as cyanide bombs — which killed an Oregon wolf in February, temporarily blinded a child and killed three family dogs in two separate incidents in Idaho and Wyoming in March alone.

“Cyanide bombs are indiscriminate killers,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “In just the past several weeks they've injured a child and killed a wolf and several family dogs. These dangerous pesticides need to be banned, but until then, they shouldn't be used where they can hurt people or kill family pets and endangered wildlife.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has registered the pesticides at issue — sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 — for use 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. In 2011 the EPA began, but never finished, an analysis of how the poisons could affect threatened and endangered species. The lawsuit seeks to compel completion of that stalled process, which should lead to mitigation measures to protect imperiled wildlife.

“The recent tragedies prove current restrictions are failing to ensure people, domestic animals and imperiled wildlife are not at risk from these dangerous and outdated tools,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “With the wide array of nonlethal, effective wildlife conflict management tools available, and the unacceptable threats these poisons pose, it is past time we end the use of cyanide M-44s and Compound 1080.”

M-44s propel one gram of sodium cyanide into the mouths of animals lured by a smelly bait, while Compound 1080 is used in “livestock protection collars” strapped onto the necks of sheep and goats and used in only a handful of states. The collars contain bladders filled with liquid poison intended to kill coyotes.

Cyanide bombs are also dangerous for people and companion animals. The cyanide bomb that killed a family dog in Idaho last month was triggered by a teenager who was sprayed with the poison, momentarily blinded and sent to the hospital. He is still experiencing lingering headaches, according to recent news reports.

These pesticides pose a high risk for endangered animals capable of triggering the devices such as grizzly bears, Canada lynx and wolves. Secondary exposure through Compound 1080-poisoned carcasses can also kill imperiled scavengers like California condors and bald eagles.

According to the USDA's Wildlife Services data, cyanide bombs killed 13,530 animals, mostly coyotes and foxes, in 2016. Of these 321 deaths were nontarget animals, including foxes, a black bear, opossums, raccoons, skunks, a fisher and family dogs. An interactive map shows how many nontarget animals of each species died from exposure to M-44 cyanide bombs between 2010 and 2016. These numbers are likely a significant undercount of the true death toll, as Wildlife Services is notorious for poor data collection and a “shoot, shovel, shut up” mentality.

“Impacts of these pesticides on endangered wildlife have not been analyzed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1993,” said Anna Frostic, senior wildlife attorney at The Humane Society of the United States. “Through this lawsuit, we intend to spur U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend additional measures to protect endangered wildlife, such as restricting the use of the pesticides where imperiled animals live.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals brought the suit.

Unintentional M-44 animal deaths

Map by Kara Clauser, Center for Center for Biological Diversity.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 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.

The Humane Society of the United States is the most effective animal protection organization, as rated by our peers, and has celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty for more than 60 years.

The Fund for Animals, an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, operates the nation's largest and most diverse network of animal care centers, providing hands-on care and safe haven for more than 3,000 animals each year.

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