That’s what critics call M-44s, traps used by federal agencies like Wildlife Services to kill coyotes, foxes, and other wild animals ranchers and farmers would consider pests. The spring-loaded devices got their moniker from the sodium cyanide — i.e. poison — they spray when triggered.
After finishing its first round of a review Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency re-authorised the government’s use of these traps nationwide, the Guardian reported. That is, at least until 2021, when the EPA plans to hand down its final verdict regarding M-44s.
These “cyanide bombs” have earned plenty of detractors over the years. Wildlife Services reported killing around 6,500 wild animals with the devices in 2018, but the device’s indiscriminate triggering has also reportedly led to the deaths of endangered animals and household pets. More than 200 animals were unintentionally killed by M-44s in the U.S. in 2018, according to the USDA data.
One such case captured the nation’s attention in 2017. That year, a teenager in Idaho accidentally set off an M-44 while on a hike with his dog. The device injured him and killed his dog instantly, prompting Mansfield’s parents to sue Wildlife Services. After several environmental groups followed suit, the agency temporarily stopped using M-44s in Colorado and Idaho.
While a vehement campaign from conservation groups demanding a ban didn’t sway the EPA’s decision Wednesday, the agency did tack on new restrictions. Among other measures, M-44s can no longer be placed within 30 metres of a public road or trail.
By the looks of that USDA data, “cyanide bombs” don’t take out anywhere near the 30 to 50 feral hogs threatening rural Americans yards on what I can only assume is an hourly basis. So this week’s viral Twitter question remains unanswered.