While a federal agency recently reauthorized a poison used in a predator-killing cyanide trap, more states are banning or limiting where they can be used. That includes around 10 million acres of public land in Wyoming.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agreed last week to a ban of M-44 devices on Forest Service land, Wilderness Areas and Wilderness Study Areas in Wyoming. The decision is the result of a lawsuit from wildlife advocacy groups.
Kent Drake with Wyoming’s Department of Agriculture says the new agreement won’t make much of a difference to livestock producers. Most of the M-44s are used on private property during the lambing and calving season in the spring to kill coyotes, foxes and feral dogs that prey on livestock.
The spring-loaded device sprays sodium cyanide when triggered, which critics say is too risky.
“These chemical weapon landmines that are being planted by USDA Wildlife Services to kill coyotes and other predators on public lands is putting the public at risk to become collateral damage,” says Erik Molvar, the executive director of Western Watersheds Project.
It's one of the three non-profit environmental organizations that filed a lawsuit against Wildlife Services in January.
Molvar says this new agreement reduces that risk for people and pets. It also adds trapping restrictions and more protections for grizzly bears.
The agreement requires Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental impacts of killing coyotes and other predators in Wyoming by January 2021. Molvar says failure to do so means the wildlife advocacy groups can bring the agency back into court.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week it would reauthorize the poison in M-44s for predator control efforts on an interim basis, despite public pushback. Ninety-nine percent of responses in the most recent public comment period opposed the reauthorization, according to an analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity.
A final decision from the EPA is expected to come after 2021.
Currently around a dozen states allow the devices to be used, including Montana. Idaho has temporarily banned the devices since 2017, and Colorado only allows them on private property.
The decision in Wyoming follows Oregon’s complete ban this past spring.
Montana’s Wildlife Services office declined an interview for this story.