Help Us Ban M-44 "Cyanide Bombs"

Will it take the death of a child to ban M-44s? We fear it might. M-44s are indiscriminate sodium cyanide devices used by government agents to kill livestock predators. They have already poisoned people and killed countless dogs and nontarget wildlife. M-44s cannot be used safely and are a public safety menace. We have initiated and led national efforts to ban them since 1990, and significant progress is being made. MORE

Photo by Jenifer Morris Photography

In April 2019 we returned to D.C. with the Mansfield family of Pocatello, Idaho (pictured above on our 2017 trip) to urge Congress to support legislation to ban M-44s nationwide. A bill nicknamed "Canyon's Law" was reintroduced by Congressman Peter DeFazi on on May 2, 2019. The Mansfield's lost their dog, and almost their son, to an M-44 device set behind their back yard. Learn more Photo credit: Jenifer Morris Photography

Oregon Bans M-44s Statewide; Bills for Nationwide Ban Introduced; Film Screenings Underway

May 2019 - We kicked into even higher gear this year with our onoing campaign to ban the public safety menace posed by the M-44 "cyanide bombs" used by government wildlife agents in 14 states. And we're thrilled to announce our efforts are paying off! For starters, Oregon just banned M-44s statewide, joining neighboring states Washington and California to create a West Coast that will soon be free of M-44 devices. And federal legislation for a nationwide ban has been reintroduced.

In Oregon it appears our rigorous coordination of testimony by victims and experts to House and Senate Committees truly paid off. Their legislature almost unanimously passed SB 580, which bans M-44s statewide. The Senate vote was 25-3 and the House vote was 53-6. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown on May 6, 2019, and goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

On the federal level, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) reintroduced bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 2, 2019 that would implement a nationwide ban on two lethal poisons used for wildlife control--the sodium cyanide used in M-44s and Compound 1080. We've worked long and hard with Rep. DeFazio to pass this legislation. The new bill is called the "Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019," H.R. 2471, aka "Canyon's Law," in honor of former M-44 victim (and now activist) Canyon Mansfield of Pocatello, Idaho. Rep. DeFazio co-introduced this legislation with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) and it is gaining significant cosponsorship. Read press release. A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon). Details to follow.

We're also pleased to share that we held a number of screenings of Lethal Control, the heart-grabbing new film featuring interviews with M-44 victims we've helped over the years. The first public screening was held March 2, 2019 at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon. The second screening was April 1 at Eaton Theater in Washington, D.C., and was followed by an educational briefing for Congressional staff on April 2. These were followed by three screenings in Idaho: May 16 in Ketchum, May 17 in Boise, and May 18 in Pocatello. Learn more and watch film.

Overview of M-44 Use and Our Work to Ban Them

As of April 2019, M-44 "cyanide bombs" were being used by the government for predator control in 14 states—Oregon,* Nevada, Utah, Colorado (only on private land), Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia. We are continuing to work toward a nationwide ban, but we are also pushing ahead on a state level to encourage local jurisdictions to lead the way.

* On a very positive note, Oregon has banned M-44s statewide! Details

The background on this great news from Oregon is that it was a long slog. On Sept. 13, 2018 we renewed our efforts to urge Oregon wildlife directors to address this critical public safety issue. We sent them a detailed 16-page petition letter signed by close to 100 victims/survivors, physicians, veterinarians, scientists and other affected parties. All who signed had learned from personal experience and/or observation that there is no safe place or way to use M-44s, as kids, pets and wild animals do not understand warning signs. The letter was exhaustively referenced, details over 60 incidents of human and pet poisonings since 1990, and shows the government's yearly under-reported statistics on dog deaths.

Not surprisingly, Oregon wildlife directors denied our petition, hiding behind flawed safety regulations their own agents don't even follow. They also ignored our most pertinent points. So we continued our push toward an Oregon ban via the following:

  • We testified twice in 2019 at public hearings before Oregon legislative committees in support of SB 580, the bill to ban M-44 devices across the state. We rallied victims to testify before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on February 28 and before the House Committee on Natural Resources on April 11. The victims' heartfelt testimonies were powerful, as was our director's testimony and our extensively referenced letter to Committee members signed by 15 environmental and conservation orgs. We're pleased to report this bill passed the Oregon legislature on April 25, 2018, was signed by the Governor on May 6, 2019, and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
  • The first public screening of the heart-grabbing new film, Lethal Control, was held March 2, 2019 at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon. The film features interviews with M-44 victims we've helped over the years and we are currently scheduling additional screenings. Learn more | Watch film trailer | Read interview with film director in Psychology Today

Nearby Idaho was using M-44s until a dog was killed and teenager poisoned in March 2017 (read more). At that point we joined with other groups in filing an Administrative Appeals Act petition to stop the state's use of M-44s. In April 2017 Idaho agreed to a temporary statewide ban that remains in effect. Later in the year Colorado banned use of M-44s on public lands pending further study. We also asked for a ban in Wyoming, but they refused.

On the national level, in 2017 we joined 17 other environmental groups in a petition to the EPA asking for a nationwide ban on government use of M-44 devices for predator control. The EPA denied the request, failing to acknowlege the reality of M-44s, which is they can never be used safely.

We will not be dissuaded. A federal bill we helped develop that would impose a nationwide ban was reintroduced in the U.S. Congress on May 2, 2019 by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oreg) as "The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019," aka Canyon's Law. This follows up on our April 2, 2019 trip to Washington, D.C., with the Mansfield family where we showed the film Lethal Control as part of a Congressional staff briefing to support DeFazio's legislation.

Our work continues. And we will not back down.

M-44 Incidents and Victims

Since 1990 we've been helping M-44 "cyanide bomb" victims cope with the trauma of losing a pet to poisoning and/or being poisoned themselves, deal with their local law enforcement, and push to get the federal government to stop using these indiscriminate devices.

Here are some highlights of our work over the years:

In 2017 several M-44 cases caused considerable stir and provided new momentum for banning these indiscriminate menaces to public safety and animal welfare.

Two Dogs Killed in Wyoming while Family Out for Walk on Prairie

In March 2017 we began working with a family in Wyoming who went out for a beautiful pre-spring walk on the prairie--one they'd taken many times before--and lost two dogs in horrifying circumstances. Our executive director, Brooks Fahy, minced no words when interviewed about this case in The Oregonian, saying "M-44s are really nothing more than land mines waiting to go off, no matter if it's a child, a dog, or a wolf. It's time to ban these notoriously dangerous devices on all lands across the United States." Read full article

Idaho Teen Narrowly Escapes Death after Triggering Device that Kills His Dog; Family Becomes Activists against M-44s

Also in March 2017, we began working extensively with the Mansfield family of Pocatello, Idaho after their 14-year-old son Canyon accidentally set off an M-44 behind his back yard and watched helplessly as his dog died an excruciating death.

Canyon only missed death by poisoning because of wind direction. He had to be hospitalized, has suffered severe side effects, and has been closely monitored. The Mansfield family is devastated and outraged, so much so that they committed themselves to preventing this from happening to anyone else.

On March 28, 2017, we joined a coalition of environmental and wildlife groups asking for an immediate ban on M-44s in Idaho and removal of all existing devices in the state.

In June 2017 the Mansfields traveled with us to Washington, D.C. to urge members of Congress to ban M-44s. The father, Dr. Mark Mansfield, spoke out in an impassioned and well-informed commentary in the Idaho State Journal. The family also attended a public meeting in Pocatello and spoke out strongly to representatives of the government agency involved, USDA Wildlife Services, letting them know that there is no safe way to use M-44s and that they should be banned.

In March 2018 the Mansfields joined us at a special screening of our award-winning fim EXPOSED: USDA's Secret War on Wildlife in Pocatello. The event commemorated the one-year anniversary of losing their dog Kasey, their son's harrowing poisoning, and their ongoing advocacy for reform and received in-depth media attention:

In 2018 the Mansfields filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, asking to be fairly compensated for their pain and suffering and for the debilitating trauma, headaches and nausea their son has experienced. In its initial response to the lawsuit, the government had the audacity to ask that the case be dismissed. This is beyond outrageous. The articles below show how events initally unfolded. We've since heard things have taken some interesting turns, so stay tuned:

The Mansfield family is featured, along with other M-44 victims we've helped over the years, in a heart-grabbing one-hour documentary called "Lethal Control" that was released in early 2019. It was made by a graduate student named Jamie Drysdale as his final project for a masters in environmental journalism.

M-44s in the News

Progress to Date

May 2019 - Oregon bans M-44s statewide via SB 580, a bill which passed the legislature almost unanimously. The Governor's signed the bill into law on May 6, 2019. It goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Press release

May 2019 - Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Oreg.) reintroduced legislation for nationwide ban on sodium cyanide used for predator control via the "Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019," H.R. 2471, aka "Canyon's Law." Press release

September 2018 - Petitioned Oregon wildlife directors to eliminate M-44s statewide via a letter signed by almost 100 victims/survivors, physicians, veterinarians, scientists and other affected parties. Letter | Press release

August 2017 - Joined 17 other environmental groups in petitioning EPA for nationwide ban on M-44's. Petition | News story

November 2017 - Colorado bans M-44s on public lands, pending further study.

April 2017 - Idaho temporarily bans M-44 use statewide.

March 2017 - Legislation we've been working on to ban M-44 "cyanide bombs" nationwide was re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 30, 2017 by Rep. Peter Defazio (D-Oreg.). Please find your Representative(s) and urge them to co-sponsor and/or support this bill. It is called H.R. 1817, "The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017." Then spread the word to every possible person.

March 2012 - Our legislation to eliminate M-44s for good was re-introduced in Congress. Details

June 2010 - Our legislation was introduced in Congress with bipartisan support. It stalled.

May 2010 - Published essay, "Two Killers that Need to Go," describing our efforts to date in our ongoing quest to ban M-44 devices, as well as the deadly poison, Compound 1080.

March 2010 - Released film, "Two Killers that Need to Go: The Case Against Poisoning Our Wildlife and Pets." It features interviews with two victims of M-44 poisoning.

May 2008 - Our first bill to ban M-44s was introduced in Congress.

January 2008 - Asserting a cover-up, we compelled the EPA to launch a formal investigation into human poisoning by an M-44, a device the USDA's Wildlife Services uses across the country:

September 2007 - We suspected USDA Wildlife Services cover-up of human poisoning, demanded the EPA investigate, and called for an immediate moratorium on M-44s:

What Are M-44s?

Diagram of M-44 cyanide device

Diagram of M-44 cyanide device

M-44 devices are spring-activated sodium cyanide ejectors that deliver a deadly dose of this poison when an animal pulls up on it. The animal can die within minutes or linger over a long period of time. M-44 fact sheet

To set up an M-44 device, a small pipe is driven into the ground and then loaded with the ejector and a sodium cyanide capsule. The top of the ejector is wrapped with an absorbent material that has been coated with a substance that attracts canines.

When an animal pulls on this material, a spring ejects the sodium cyanide into the animal’s mouth and face. The force of the ejector can spray the cyanide granules up to five feet.

We have been pressing for a national ban on the lethal M-44 sodium cyanide ejector (also known as “coyote getters”) since 1994 when Amanda Wood-Kingsley contacted us for help after she and her dog Ruby were poisoned by an M-44.

We've also worked with Congressman Peter DeFazio’s (D-Oreg.) to develop a bill to ban M-44s across the nation. It was introduced in Congress in March 2017 and will be reintroduced in 2019. Rep. DeFazio is acutely aware of the threat that M-44’s pose to pets, people, and wildlife, as we have consistently relayed personal accounts to him of poisonings that occur across the country.

Victims of M-44s support our efforts to ban these devices nationwide, as evidenced by the letters and report below, which provide dramatic testimony of the horrific consequences of M-44 use.

Victims Speak Out: Letters to Congressman Peter DeFazio

The letters below were written by M-44 victims to Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), requesting a complete ban on the deadly cyanide devices. The cases are strikingly different, but each had tragic results.

Federal M-44 Death Statistics & Use Guidelines

Death Statistics

NOTE: The deaths tallies included in the following reports sourced from USDA Wildlife Services data are highly suspect, particularly as employees within Wildlife Services have repeatedly told us many deaths are not reported.

Learn more about the coverup in EXPOSED, our award-winning, whistle-blowing film about America's secret war on wildlife.

Wildlife Services Warning Signs & Directives

Predator Defense investigations have repeatedly found a lack of warning signs on M-44s, despite the following federal directive on M-44 Device Use and Signage:

23. Bilingual warning signs in English and Spanish shall be used in all areas containing M-44 devices. All such signs shall be removed when M-44 devices are removed.

a. Main entrances or commonly used access points to areas in which M-44 devices are set shall be posted with warning signs to alert the public to the toxic nature of the cyanide and to the danger to pets. Signs shall be inspected weekly to ensure their continued presence and to ensure that they are conspicuous and legible. An elevated sign shall be placed within 25 feet of each individual M-44 device warning persons not to handle the device.

Excerpted from USDA APHIS ADC (Wildlife Services) Directive, M-44 Cyanide Capsules, M-44 Use Restrictions, EPA Registration No. 56228-15

EPA Use & Restrictions Directive for M-44s

USDA Precautionary Statements for People Handling M-44s

How You Can Help: Support the Bill to Ban M-44s Nationwide

May 2019 - A bipartisan bill we've long worked on to ban M-44 "cyanide bombs" across the nation was reintroduced in the U.S. Congress on May 2, 2019 by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida). Officially titled H.R. 2471, The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019, the bill is nicknamed "Canyon's Law" in honor Canyon Mansfield, the 2017 victim from Pocatello, Idaho. This common-sense, tax-saving, nonpartisan legislation should be supported without resistance as an essential public safety measure by all elected officials.

Breaking News! Senator Jeff Merkley has also introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. Details to follow.