Bill Reintroduced to Ban Deadly “Cyanide Bombs” on Public Lands

A fox.
Photo by RT Images

Washington, DC—A bill reintroduced today by US Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Steve Cohen (D-TN), and US Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) seeks to ban the use of wildlife-killing M-44 devices, commonly known as “cyanide bombs,” on federal public lands. These deadly devices — spring-loaded capsules armed with cyanide spray—have injured people and inhumanely killed thousands of animals every year.

The bill, known as “Canyon’s Law,” was first introduced in 2017 following a string of tragic incidents involving M-44s. That year, an M-44 device exploded near the home of 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield in Pocatello, Idaho, killing his dog and injuring the teen.

In late 2019, the Trump administration announced it would reauthorize the use of sodium cyanide in M-44s despite overwhelming public support for a nationwide ban. The Environmental Protection Agency allows use of the devices by Wildlife Services, the animal-killing program of the US Department of Agriculture. The EPA also authorizes M-44 use by state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Texas.

“Wildlife Services’ refusal to end the use of M-44 sodium cyanide devices shows both an unwillingness to transition away from archaic lethal methods and a cruel indifference to the threats posed to people, pets, and wildlife,” said Susan Millward, executive director and CEO of the Animal Welfare Institute. “These dangerous devices have no place on America’s public lands. We urge Congress to stand up to Wildlife Services and end the use of this inhumane method.”

According to Wildlife Services’ own data, the program poisoned more than 6,000 animals in 2022 using M-44 cyanide bombs. More than 150 of these animals were killed unintentionally, including at least two dogs and dozens of foxes. The program’s use of M-44s has declined slightly since 2019, when it used M-44s to kill 8,200 animals.

“Cyanide bombs are a cruel and indiscriminate device that have proven to be deadly for pets, humans, and wildlife — regardless of the intended target,” Huffman said. “Families should be able to enjoy the outdoors without the fear of accidentally detonating these devices. They have no business being on our public lands, especially when there are far safer, proven methods to protect livestock, and our bill will bring an end to their use.”  

“Across US public lands, M-44 ‘cyanide bombs’ have had devastating impacts on people, pets, and wildlife,” said Carson Barylak, campaigns manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “We applaud the reintroduction of Canyon’s Law and look forward to continuing Canyon’s courageous fight to eliminate deadly cyanide traps from lands meant to be protected for all Americans.”

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

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