The Trump administration reauthorized a controversial device used to kill livestock predators Thursday, despite strong opposition.
The Environmental Protection Agency's interim decision reauthorizes M-44s with some new restrictions it says will guard against accidental poisonings. They include prohibiting the use of M-44s within 600 feet of a home and 300 feet of a public road or path. Users also would have to post two warning signs instead of one.
Collette Adkins, the carnivore conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, says the spring-loaded devices that release sodium cyanide need to be banned and says the Center plans to sue the EPA.
“We’re so disappointed and appalled. 99.9 percent of people who commented on the EPA’s reauthorization proposal asked for a ban,” Adkins said.
Several conservation groups have long called for a ban after repeated instances of M-44s poisoning non-targeted wildlife, pets and people, including a teenage boy from Idaho in 2017. He survived but his dog did not.
The federal government cites a study estimating that coyotes annually kill 17,000 of the country's 112 million cattle.
The EPA's assistant administrator said in a statement that the agency had worked with the Agriculture Department to “ensure there are safe and effective tools for farmers and ranchers to protect livestock.”
The EPA allows trained use of the devices through the Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services and state agencies in Montana and Wyoming, as well as South Dakota, Texas and New Mexico.
A federal court recently approved a ban on M-44 use by Wildlife Services across more than 10 million acres of public land in Wyoming. It’s part of an agreement resulting from a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and other wildlife advocacy groups.
Last year, Wildlife Services used M-44s to kill 110 coyotes and 5 red foxes in Montana in an effort to protect livestock.
Wild Earth Guardians recently filed a lawsuit to stop the use of the device.
Adkins says nothing but a complete ban will keep people and animals safe. She says the Center for Biological Diversity will sue the EPA as soon as possible and will continue to work on a state-by-state ban.
Montana’s Wildlife Services State Director did not respond to a request for comment before the deadline for this story.