The Environmental Protection Agency has declined to ban the use of M-44 cyanide capsules, commonly known as cyanide bombs, in response to a 2017 petition requesting that all pending registrations for the capsules be canceled.
In August 2017, the Wild Earth Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity, along with several other wildlife conservation groups petitioned the EPA to outlaw the devices, which are used to kill coyotes, fox and wild dogs that pose a threat to livestock.
M-44s are tubes that are loaded with sodium cyanide and driven into the ground. They are then covered with bait to attract animals. When an animal bites down on the bait, the sodium cyanide powder is released into its mouth, killing it almost immediately.
The petition says the devices pose a significant threat to “nontarget” animals, which pose no threat to livestock, including family pets and endangered species.
According to the U.S. Division of Wildlife Services — the U.S. Department of Agriculture program through which the EPA has registered sodium cyanide for use in M-44s — 13,530 animals were killed by M-44s in 2016. However, 321 of those deaths were non-target animals.
In March 2017, Canyon Mansfield of Pocatello, who was then 14, accidentally set off a cyanide bomb that had been mistakenly placed on federal land near his house by a Wildlife Services worker.
Though Mansfield was not significantly injured by the sodium cyanide powder released by the device, his dog, a Labrador retriever named Casey, was killed in front of him.
Mark and Theresa Mansfield, Canyon’s parents, filed a lawsuit in June seeking reparations, saying that Canyon still has headaches from his exposure to the poison.
Theresa said she was not at all surprised by the EPA’s decision but was still dismayed.
“It is not going to change until there is a coffin brought to Washington, D.C,” she said. “That’s when it’s going to change.”
She added that she was disappointed in the local government’s response to the issue, as well as the national government.
“I want to know where Mayor Blad is in all this because this happened in our community,” Theresa said. “And I want him to step up. This is his community, and these are his people, and he’s supposed to protect us.”
However, Blad said he sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture after the incident regarding the devices and met with local and regional officials to express his concern.
“While the situation that happened to the Mansfield family is extremely unfortunate, ultimately, the final decision on a ban of the devices is up to the federal government,” Blad said in an email.
The Mansfield’s story led to national scrutiny of M-44s and was noted in the petition, along with several other instances of domestic animals and pets being killed by the devices.
Additionally, as a result of the incident, Idaho introduced a statewide moratorium on the use of cyanide bombs on public lands.
However, the EPA said in a letter to the petitioners that the request to review registrations for M-44 devices would be denied, as there was no “substantial new information” submitted in the petition.
According to the letter, registrations are already reviewed, and there was not enough evidence given to provide justification for a special review of the registrations to take place.
Wild Earth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity said they would not let the EPA’s decision stop them.
“Cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that just can’t be used safely,” Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “We’ll keep fighting for a permanent nationwide ban, which is the only way to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from the EPA’s poison.”
Theresa also said she would continue to raise public awareness in the hopes that it will eventually bring about a change in policy.
“They say they’re saving all this money and livestock, but our lives are being jeopardized,” she said.