Poisons on public lands – a threat to predators, people and pets

We have written before about Wildlife Services – the agency within the US Department of Agriculture that is responsible for, among other things, severely depleting ecologically important predator populations largely in an effort to aid private livestock interests.  They accomplish this by many means including aerial gunning and trapping.  But what everyone who enjoys the outdoors should know is that Wildlife Services also kills predators by spreading poison across our public lands. 

Wildlife Services uses sodium cyanide inside spring-loaded devices topped with bait lures, known as M-44s.  In theory, M-44s are designed to target coyotes - when a coyote tugs on the bait, the spring shoots sodium cyanide powder into the animal's mouth.  The powder reacts with the moisture in the animal's mouth to release hydrogen cyanide gas which kills the coyote.  However, in practice, M-44s routinely kill non-target animals including wolves, badgers, bears, bobcats, foxes, and birds.  On occasion, these devices are also accidentally triggered by people’s dogs or by people themselves when they are unsuspectingly out to enjoy some time outdoors. And the results are devastating.

Our friends at Predator Defense have produced a short video sharing the experiences of two people who were exposed to poison from M-44s – one on their own property and another on public lands adjacent to their property.  This compelling video highlights the danger these poisons pose to everyday people and their pets. For more information on this issue, please visit Predator Defense's website.

Late last year, we delivered 57,000 letters from NRDC members and activists calling on USDA to end the use of poisons on public lands.  If you'd like to add your voice to the cause, please visit NRDC's site: nomorepoison.org.  This year we will continue to pressure the agency to abandon this risky and unnecessary practice which endangers our wildlife, the public and our pets.