In a landmark decision prioritizing wildlife conservation and public safety, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has implemented a nationwide ban on the use of M-44 cyanide devices on public lands it manages. M-44s, colloquially known as "cyanide bombs," have been deployed by federal and state agencies, notably fish and wildlife agencies, to kill predators. While designed to target specific animals, like coyotes, considered threats to livestock grazing on public lands, these devices have tragically resulted in the unintended deaths of non-targeted wildlife and domestic dogs.
In 2018, an M-44 set by Wildlife Services, a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture most associated with wildlife killing, unintentionally killed a wolf. The East Oregonian newspaper opined that M-44s be removed from Oregon and that Wildlife Services “should be updated to include 21st Century technology and ethical and social mores.”
Placing something in our woods that indiscriminately kills canines — be they wolves or coyotes or family dogs — is not smart. For the safety of our family pets, and our family members out traipsing around the hills, removing all M-44s makes sense.
In Oregon, state legislators have been historically hostile or indifferent to wildlife conservation issues and were initially resistant to calls to ban M-44s. In a surprising reverse from previous years, a coalition including Oregon Wild and other wildlife conservation organizations succeeded in securing a near-unanimous vote to ban the “bombs” in 2019.
"The eradication of M-44s from Oregon's landscape would be so welcome," said Danielle Clair, an Oregon resident who testified at both Senate and House hearings in support of the ban. "But it'll be 17 years too late for my best buddy and love, Oberon, my 7-year-old Great Dane/German shepherd who died by cyanide sodium poisoning in 2002. I can't think of this as justice, as there is no return from such trauma. But making people, pets and wildlife in Oregon safe from these devices would be an unmitigated success story."
(Ceremonial signing of SB 580 - the bill that banned M-44s in Oregon)
The nationwide ban on M-44 cyanide bombs represents a pivotal moment in recognizing the urgent need for reform within Wildlife Services. As Oregon and the Bureau of Land Management take significant steps to safeguard public safety and wildlife, it becomes increasingly apparent that broader reforms are needed within federal and state agencies responsible for predator control. The tales of unintended casualties, from the tragic loss of beloved pets to the impact on non-targeted wildlife, underscore the imperative for a more humane, ecologically sound approach. Oregon Wild will continue to emphasize the importance of reforming Wildlife Services to ensure that wildlife management strategies align with contemporary conservation values, prioritizing the well-being of both human communities and the diverse ecosystems we inhabit.