Montana Public Radio

USDA Expands Review Of 'Cyanide Bombs' After Boy Injured

Jun 15, 2017

Three months after a predator-killing cyanide trap sickened a teenage boy in Idaho and killed his dog, the federal government is launching an expanded review of the devices.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today the expanded review should be finished this fall. Meanwhile, workers will follow interim guidelines intended to make sure anyone near a device is alerted.

That includes elevated signs placed within 15 feet of each device, rather than the 25 feet required now. But Andrea Santarsiere,  a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, says closer signs won’t help.

“I have a border collie, she’s a very smart dog, she’s one of the smartest breeds out there actually, but that doesn’t mean she can read," she says. "So while it’s great that they want to move the signs ten feet closer, that’s not necessarily going to protect pets and especially wildlife.”

The spring-activated devices called M-44s look like water sprinkler heads embedded in the ground but spray cyanide when triggered by animals attracted by bait. They're used to kill coyotes and other livestock predators, mostly in Western U.S. states.  

In March a 14-year-old Idaho boy was injured and his dog died when they encountered one on federally-owned land about 500 yards from his home.