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, as detailed below.

Victory Spotlight: 

Photo of 14-year-old Canyon and dog Kasey, who was killed by M-44 in this spot

Photo of Canyon Mansfield of Pocatello, ID, with his dog Kasey, killed in 2017 by M-44 cyanide bomb

Idaho bans use of M-44s, pending full EIS; Mansfield family wins precedent-setting legal battle

After a long, high profile fight, we're pleased to announce a strikingly good court decision in March 2020 banned M-44s statewide in Idaho. It's a win for a great outdoors free of "cyanide bombs" and we are proud to have been a plaintiff in this landmark case. The decision locks in Idaho's tentative moratorium on M-44s, until the agency completes a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will take a minimum of four years, and is unlikely to happen.

August 2020 brought another big Idaho win via the Mansfield family's lawsuit against USDA Wildlife Services. Their case--arising from the 2017 wrongful killing of their dog Kasey and poisoning/potential killing of their son Canyon with an illegally placed M-44 on a hill behind their home--was about principle, not money. Due to their perseverance and determination, the Mansfield family achieved a first--they prevailed in holding the government accountable for one of countless incidents in which indiscriminate, poisonous land mines, planted in our great outdoors for "predator control," have killed wild animals, dogs, and potentially a child. Wildlife Services admitted it was negligent. This sets a very important precedent indeed.

Photo of SB 580 signing ceremony with Oregon Governor Kate Brown 6-19-19

Ceremonial signing of bill banning M-44s in Oregon with Governor Kate Brown on June 19, 2019

Oregon's statewide M-44 ban went into effect Jan. 1, 2020

We're thrilled to report that our rigorous coordination of testimony by victims and experts to Oregon legislative committees truly paid off. In April 2019 they almost unanimously passed SB 580, a bill which banned M-44s statewide. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown on May 6, 2019, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

So Oregon has joined neighboring states Washington and California to create a West Coast free of M-44 devices!


Background on Hard-Fought Oregon Win

This great news from Oregon follows a long (multi-decade) slog. It came to a head after we urgently petitioned wildlife directors via a detailed 16-page letter to address this critical public safety issue and they denied our request.

The letter was 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.

In denying our request Oregon wildlife directors unsuprisingly hid behind flawed safety regulations their own agents don't even follow. They also ignored our most pertinent points. We were absolutely fed up and continued our push toward a ban.

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 that eventually passed. 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.

SB 580 passed the Oregon legislature almost unanimously on April 25, 2019, with a Senate vote of 25-3 and a House vote of 53-6. The bill was signed by Governor Brown on May 6, 2019, and went into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Overview: Our Work to Ban M-44s on Federal, State and Local Levels

As of Jan. 1, 2020, M-44 "cyanide bombs" are still being used by the government for predator control in 13 states. In Colorado and Wyoming they are only allowed on private land. They are allowed statewide in Nevada, Utah, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia. We continue to work toward a nationwide ban, while also pushing ahead on a state and local level to encourage local jurisdictions to lead the way.

Photo by Jenifer Morris Photography

Press conference from one of our trips to the U.S. Capitol urging passage of a federal bill to ban M-44 'cyanide bombs.' Photo credit: Jenifer Morris Photography

Federal Legislation to Ban M-44s Reintroduced in 2019

In our work towards a nationwide ban on M-44s, we returned to Washington, D.C., in April 2019 with the Mansfield family of Pocatello, Idaho (pictured above) to urge members of Congress to support legislation to ban M-44s. The Mansfields lost their dog, and almost their son, Canyon, to an M-44 device set behind their back yard. Learn more.

The bipartisan bill we've worked long and hard on that would impose a nationwide ban was reintroduced in the U.S. Congress on May 2, 2019 by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oreg). The bill was called "The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2019," HR 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 gained significant cosponsorship. Read press release. A companion bill, S. 1301: Canyon's Law, was introduced in the Senate May 2, 2019 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon, with Sen. Corey Booker, D-New Jersey). These were introduced after 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.

Regulatory-Level Whiplash: EPA Denies Request for Nationwide Ban

On the federal regulatory 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.

Then in August 2019 we were temporarily gratified to see evidence the EPA was finally acknowledging the public outcry against M-44s. Specifically, they publicly recognized M-44s kill unintentional targets and that tightening use restrictions would only minimize, not prevent, the deaths of dogs and wildlife (and potentiallly people). At the time the EPA said they must do more analysis and discussion to further minimize off-target impacts. But in the end they reauthorized the use of sodium cyanide in M-44 devices. Here's how they went back and forth:

State and Public Land Bans

In addition to Oregon's statewide ban, we've had positive developments in Idaho, which 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 became more permanent in March 2020, when an Idaho Court officially banned them until a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) can be completed.

In other good news, Colorado banned use of M-44s on public lands in 2017, pending further study, and Wyoming banned M-44s on 10 million acres public lands in 2019, pending results of a lawsuit against USDA Wildlife Services which requires a new EIS by January 2021.

So our work continues. M-44 use is utterly unacceptable. 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.

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

2017 WYOMING INCIDENT: Two Dogs Killed 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

2017 IDAHO INCIDENT: 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. Idaho finally agreed to a temporary moratorium that remains in effect as of Jan. 1, 2020:

In 2017 and 2019 the Mansfields traveled with us to Washington, D.C. to urge members of Congress to ban M-44s. Read story Canyon's 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 and blamed the Mansfields for the incident. This was beyond outrageous. The articles below show how events initally unfolded. Subsequently, things took an interesting turn, so keep reading below:

August 2020 brought a wonderful turn for the Mansfields. Due to their perseverance and determination, they prevailed in their lawsuit against Wildlife Services. While they were awarded a small settlement, that was never the point. Their case was about principle, not money. What matters is the Mansfields achieved a first: they prevailed in holding the government accountable for one of countless incidents in which their indiscriminate, poisonous land mines have killed wild animals, dogs, and potentially a child. In settling this case, Wildlife Services admitted it was negligent. This sets a very important precedent indeed.

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.

OTHER INCIDENTS: Victims Speak Out in Letters to Congressman

The letters below were written by M-44 victims to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), requesting a complete ban on the deadly cyanide devices. The cases are strikingly different, but each had tragic results. Rep. DeFazio has led the charge in Congresss for federal legislation to ban M-44s nationwide.

M-44s in the News

Progress to Date

August 2020 - The Mansfield family of Pocatello, ID, victims of illegally set M-44, prevail in lawsuit against USDA Wildlife Services, getting them to acknowedge their negligence. News story

March 2020 - Idaho bans M-44s, pending full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). News story

January 2020 - Statewide ban on M-44s officially goes into effect in Oregon. News story

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 bipartisan bill to ban M-44s across the nation. It was introduced in Congress in March 2017 and 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.

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

Bipartisan federal legislation 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. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate with Sen. Corey Booker (D-New Jersey).

This common-sense, tax-saving, nonpartisan legislation should be supported without resistance as an essential public safety measure by all elected officials.