EPA reauthorizes use of controversial 'cyanide bombs' as a method for killing wild animals

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reauthorized the use of "cyanide bomb" chemical traps as a method for killing wild animals, according to CBS News

The controversial traps, which can be used on coyotes, dogs, foxes and other wild animals across the country, have been in use since the 1960s despite objections from environmental organizations. 

Technically referred to as M-44 devices, the traps lure wildlife with bait before spraying sodium cyanide into their mouths. They are used to protect livestock from predators

However, the traps have sometimes endangered more than just predators. In 2017, M-44s temporarily blinded a child and killed three pet dogs in Wyoming and Idaho, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The family of the child sued the government for $150,000 following the incident.

"Cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that can't be used safely by anyone, anywhere," Collette Adkins, the Center for Biological Diversity's carnivore conservation director, said in a statement earlier this year.

RELATED: See the animals impacted by California's deadly wildfires

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Animals impacted by deadly wildfires in California
MALIBU, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Llamas are tied to a lifeguard stand on the beach in Malibu as the Woolsey Fire comes down the hill Friday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Cathy Fallon pets her dog Shiloh at their home Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. Shiloh was burned when a wildfire scorched the property, burning down Fallon's home. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Horses are tied to lifeguard booths on the beach in Malibu, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Wildfires are burning in both Southern and Northern California. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Equine veterinarian Jesse Jellison carries an injured goose to a waiting transport during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Horses are spooked as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 inAgoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
Dogs roam burned out neighborhoods as the Camp fire tears through Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on November 08, 2018. - More than one hundred homes, a hospital, a Safeway store and scores of other structures have burned in the area and the fire shows no signs of slowing. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
MALIBU, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Horses are tied to a pole on the beach in Malibu as the Woolsey Fire comes down the hill Friday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
MALIBU, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Llamas evacuated from the Woolsey Fire are tied to a lifeguard tower at Zuma Beach in Malibu on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Photo by Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images)
PARADISE, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Rocklin police officers Randy Law grazes a horse he rescued in Paradise, Calif., Friday, November 9, 2018. (Karl Mondon/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
Jimmy Clements, who stayed at his home as the Camp Fire raged through Paradise, Calif., pets his dog Blue, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. Clements, whose home stands among destroyed residences, said he built an FM radio out of a potato and wire to keep up with news about the fire. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Cathy Fallon sits near her dog Shiloh, a 2-year-old golden retriever, whose face was burned in the fire in Paradise, Calif. Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Shiloh needs veterinarian treatment. But she can't leave her property because authorities won't allow her to return to Paradise, since the entire town is still under an evacuation order. Fallon and Shiloh are spending nights in this horse trailer because the family home burned. (AP Photo/Paul Elias)
Marty Cable is one of dozens of horse owners who evacuated her home in Encinal Canyon to bring their animals to an evacuation area at Zuma Beach in Malibu, Calif., Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Known as the Woolsey fire, it has consumed thousands of acres and destroyed multiple homes. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Goats are cared for at The Pierce College Equine Center where evacuees are bringing their large animals after being evacuated from the wildfire in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. A wind-driven wildfire raged through Southern California communities on Friday, burning homes and forcing thousands of people to flee as it relentlessly pushed toward tony Malibu and the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Teresa Merritt, left helps her sister Mary Lou Miller with her dogs after being evacuated at The Pierce College Equine Center where evacuees are bringing their large and small animals in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. A wind-driven wildfire raged through Southern California communities on Friday, burning homes and forcing thousands of people to flee as it relentlessly pushed toward Malibu and the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Wildfire evacuee Eva Loeffler sits with her 20 year-old pony Mini at the Pierce College Equine Center where evacuees are bringing their large and small animals in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. A wind-driven wildfire raged through Southern California communities on Friday, burning homes and forcing thousands of people to flee as it relentlessly pushed toward Malibu and the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
PARADISE, CA - NOVEMBER 11: A dog named Rockey stands on the fence in front of the home of Jimmy Clements that survived the Camp Fire on November 11, 2018 in Paradise, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 105,000 acres, killed 23 people and has destroyed over 6,700 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 25 percent containment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Yolo County Sheriff's Office Animal Services Officer Tim Share leads a rescued horse towards a trailer during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A donkey is seen tied to a road sign during the Camp Fire near Big Bend, California, U.S. November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A group of deers walk through properties destroyed by the the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Local residents bring their horses to Zuma Beach and away from the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California, U.S. November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
MALIBU, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Llamas evacuated from the Woolsey Fire are tied to a lifeguard tower at Zuma beach in Malibu on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Photo by Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images)
People lead horses and ponies down Pacific Coast Highway to an evacuation area at Zuma Beach in the Point Dume area of Malibu, Calif., Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Known as the Woolsey Fire, it has consumed tens of thousands of acres and destroyed multiple homes. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
MALIBU, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Horses are yied to a pole on the beach in Malibu as the Woolsey Fire comes down the hill Friday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Nine year-old pit bull Tone, which suffers from burns on its paws during the Camp Fire, rests in the parking lot of Neighbourhood Church of Chico, in Chico, California, U.S. November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Veterinarian Dawn Alves tends to a dog named Fatty who received burns on its eyes and chin during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Evacuee Brian Etter and dog Tone, who walked on foot to escape the Camp Fire, rest in the parking lot of Neighborhood Church of Chico, in Chico, California, U.S., November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Horses are spooked as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 inAgoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
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The devices are mainly deployed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, as well as state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas. Wildlife Services used M-44s to kill approximately 6,500 animals in 2018, according to the Guardian.  

The EPA proposed a renewed license for cyanide traps at the end of 2018, but the idea was met with widespread disapproval. More than 99.9 percent of people commenting on the proposed renewal were against the continued use of M-44s, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center.

Despite the negative feedback, the agency reauthorized the devices this earlier this week.

The EPA has added new restrictions to the use of M-44s, though. For example, the devices cannot be placed within 100 feet of a public road or pathway — the previously required distance was 50 feet. Also, anyone living within half a mile of the cyanide traps must be notified of their placement.

Still, some environmental activists worry that the restrictions will have no effect on safety.

"In my 25 years working with M-44 victims, I've learned that Wildlife Services' agents frequently do not follow the use restrictions," Brooks Fahy, executive director of the nonprofit Predator Defense, told CBS. "And warning signs will not prevent more dogs, wild animals and potentially children from being killed. They cannot read them. M-44s are a safety menace and must be banned."

A final decision on the use of M-44s is expected to come in 2021, according to the New York Post

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