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.

Photo by Jenifer Morris Photography

In June 2017 we went to D.C. with the Mansfield family of Pocatello, Idaho (pictured above) to urge Congress to support new legislation to ban M-44s. The Mansfield's lost their dog, and almost their son, to an M-44 device set behind their back yard. Read son's first-hand account and father's commentary. and learn more about this case. Photo credit: Jenifer Morris Photography

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

As of September 2018, M-44 "cyanide bombs" are 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 Sept. 13, 2018 we began urging Oregon wildlife directors to address this critical public safety issue by eliminating M-44s statewide. We sent them a detailed 16-page letter signed by close to 100 victims/survivors, physicians, veterinarians, scientists and other affected parties. All who signed have 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 is 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.

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, a bill we helped develop that would impose a nationwide ban was reintroduced in in March 2017 to the 2017-18 Congress. In August 2017 we joined with 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. Read news coverage

Our work continues. And we will not back down.

M-44 Incidents and Victims

We've been helping M-44 victims for decades, many of which you can read about here. But in 2017 several 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:

The Mansfields have 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. Here's how events are unfolding:

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

The bill we worked on to ban M-44 "cyanide bombs" across the nation, H.R. 1817, "The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017," was reintroduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oreg) on Mar. 30, 2017 as part of the 2017-18 Congress.  It is nicknamed "Canyon's Law" in honor of Idaho victim detailed above. It is common-sense, tax-saving, nonpartisan legislation and should be supported without resistance as an essential public safety measure by all elected officials.

M-44s in the News

Progress to Date

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. 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 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 Statistics & Guidelines

Federal Statistics

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

Take Action to Ban M-44 "Cyanide Bombs"

Please help us stop tragedic M-44 deaths by taking action today: