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Groups: M-44 “Cyanide Bombs” Must Be Eliminated in Oregon Before a Child Is Killed

September 13, 2018

Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 520-6003,
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910,
Carson Barylak, International Fund for Animal Welfare, (614) 266-9475,

These unsafe, indiscriminate poison devices used by the government for predator control have injured humans and killed countless pets and wild animals. They are a public safety menace.

EUGENE, OR – Close to 100 victims/survivors, physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and other affected parties are urging Oregon wildlife managers to address a critical public safety issue–the government’s ongoing use of deadly M-44 sodium cyanide devices, also known as “cyanide bombs” (see note below*), for predator control. They are requesting an end to the use of M-44s statewide and removal of all devices currently deployed.

Thousands of pets and wild animals have already been killed by M-44s in Oregon and beyond. People have been poisoned and suffered long-term health effects. One adult has died in Utah, following cyanide exposure from an M-44, and a teenager in Idaho who was poisoned appears to have only escaped death because of wind direction.

“This is vital public safety issue,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of the national wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense. “M-44s must be banned before a child is killed.”

The individuals and groups who signed the detailed letter to the Oregon and Western Region directors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services–the federal program responsible for these deadly devices–are from both Oregon and other states where tragedy has struck. All know 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 also signed by the long-time manufacturer of the spring used in M-44s, who did not know how the product he was making was being used. When he found out, he ceased production and took a strong stand against the devices.

Included in the request to rid Oregon of M-44s is an appendix that details over 60 specific incidents of human and pet poisonings since 1990 that were reported in the media, by advocacy groups, and elsewhere. Another appendix shows the federal government’s official body count of close to 2,000 dogs deaths between 1997-2016, noting that the real number of dogs killed by M-44s is much larger and will never be known, as whistleblowers from USDA Wildlife Services have revealed that many pet deaths go unreported.

“Unless there are witnesses, agencies often don’t record the poisonings,” said Fahy. “Families are then left to wonder what happened to their dog. The fact that Wildlife Services continues to state that incidents of M-44s killing domestic dogs and exposing people to poison are ‘rare’ is an outrage. Those of us involved with this issue know these incidents are common-place and that countless more will never be known because of Wildlife Services’ repeated cover-ups.”

The parties asking for M-44s to be eliminated in Oregon believe the hazards these devices pose to people, pets and native wildlife, the strong public sentiment against them, and the questionable economic benefits of programs that deploy them make M-44 use unjustifiable and counter to the public interest. They also note that–while the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and USDA Wildlife Services have temporarily stopped using M-44s in some counties (Baker, Grant, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa)–they could be reintroduced in those areas at any time.

“In addition to being outdated, unnecessary, and ecologically unsound, the use of M-44s represents an unacceptable risk to people, pets and wildlife,” noted Carson Barylak, Campaigns Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “As Congress considers a bipartisan measure to ban these deadly devices, we urge Oregon Wildlife Services to show leadership by ending their use statewide.”

“Looking at the bigger picture, the USDA’s war against native wildlife needs to end entirely,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project. “In the immediate term, the most dangerous weapons that endanger wildlife, people, and family pets–the M-44 ‘cyanide bombs’ that have been planted like land mines all around Oregon–need to be permanently eliminated.”

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*NOTE: USDA Wildlife Services objects to the use of the word “bomb” in reference to M-44s. But members of the public started calling M-44s “cyanide bombs” because they act as such per common dictionary definitions, which boil down to containers filled with a destructive substance designed to explode on impact or when detonated. M-44s are filled with powdery sodium cyanide poison. Their spring-activated ejectors spew the poison into the air in a cloud. The ejectors’ force can spray the cyanide up to five feet. They are deadly devices, and to the public the definition of bomb fits.

Reference Materials

Meet Canyon Mansfield, the Idaho teen who took a walk with his dog on a hill behind his house in March 2017 and accidentally triggered an M-44 “cyanide bomb,” which he mistook for a sprinkler head. Both were poisoned by cyanide. Canyon watched his dog die an agonizing death within minutes. He has suffered long-term, adverse health effects, and it appears he was only spared death because of wind direction.

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