Trump Administration Re-Authorizes Cruel Use of M-44 Cyanide Bombs

Tala DiBenedetto

Recently, the Trump Administration reauthorized the use of M-44 poison devices for use in wildlife culls.  These devices, also referred to as “cyanide bombs,” are planted in the wild and designed to lure in predators that threaten livestock with bait, then release a fatal dose of sodium cyanide, a highly toxic pesticide.  The devices are smeared with scented bait, which cause animals to bite on and pull them. This causes a capsule containing the sodium cyanide is then ejected into their mouth.  Deaths caused by the poisoning from these traps are agonizing. Use of M-44 devices gained some media attention when a fourteen-year-old boy named Canyon accidentally set off a device while walking his dog, injuring himself and killing his dog. After bending down to touch what looked like a garden sprinkler, the device exploded, shooting poison directly into the boys eyes, with the remainder blowing downwind towards his dog, Casey. Within a minute, Casey was “writhing with convulsions, a reddish foam emanating from his mouth. In front of Canyon, the yellow Lab made guttural sounds then went still.” Casey’s death is not an uncommon occurrence. An investigation uncovered that between 2000 and 2012, activation of these devices resulted in the deaths of 1,200 dogs. These cruel devices cast the same agonizing fate on countless wildlife across the country.

This program is carried out by Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Wildlife Services, founded in 1885, exists primarily for the benefit of the livestock industry, spending more than $80 million a year killing animals that are deemed a “nuisance” to humans. The agency uses of poisoned bait, neck snares, leghold traps (which are banned in 80 countries), aerial gunning, and cyanide traps to go after animals that threaten livestock grazing on public lands. Wildlife Services was responsible for the deaths of over 2.5 million animals in 2018.

Wildlife Services, along with its state counterpart agencies in Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, have relied on the M-44s to kill animals that threaten livestock since the mid-1970s. These cyanide bombs kill thousands of animals every year, killing 6,579 in 2018 alone. These traps have been criticized not only for being cruel, but indiscriminate, fatally poisoning numerous non-target species, including federally endangered and threatened species.

M44 Dead Wolf or Coyote near POISON sign 2016-05813_Partial 11_Item 1(New Mexico) 12-scr.jpg
Corpse of a poisoned coyote

In 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed interim decision reauthorizing the use of M-44 devices. The decision was met with thousands of public comments, almost entirely in opposition to reauthorization. As a result of the flood of public opposition, EPA withdrew its reauthorization application for further review.  Nevertheless, four months later the agency issued its decision to move forward with reauthorization with a few minor additional restrictions. Those restrictions include a 600-foot buffer around residences (unless there is written permission from the landowner), increasing the buffer from public pathways and roads, and one additional sign within 15 feet of a device. In addition to offering no protection to wildlife, the restrictions have been criticized as insufficient to adequately protect the public, pets, and vulnerable species.

Scarface: In the end, the end was a bullet

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R. Hillegas photo in Cody Enterprise; click image for article

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

A bullet stopped Scarface. The famously recognizable grizzly bear with a fan base in Yellowstone was a 25-year-old elder in declining health. Given that fewer than five percent of male bears born in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem survive to age 25, he’d already beaten monumental odds. That is, until he met up with a hunter’s bullet last November north of Gardiner, MT–Yellowstone’s northern gate–and a stone’s throw from the national park. Scarface was robbed of a natural death on his own terms–robbed of the where and the when he would have lain down for the last time. It isn’t hard to imagine that it would have been within the relatively safe boundaries of Yellowstone, the home where he spent most of his long, bear’s life.  Continue reading

Wolverines: Quest to protect magnificent mustelids continues

www.usnews

Photo: Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com via AP

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

News flash: Climate change imperils wolverines and Feds must act! That’s the recent headline from ABC news, reporting on court proceedings in Missoula, Montana. On Monday, April 4th, “U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to act as quickly as possible to protect the species as it becomes vulnerable to a warming planet.”

Cue the climate change deniers and those who don’t know much of anything about wolverines: “Wolverines are tough animals. I really don’t think ‘climate change’ is anything they can’t handle,” said one commenter at the Missoulian Facebook page.“There is no evidence suggesting that wolverines will not adapt sufficiently to diminished late spring snow pack (assuming there is any) to maintain viability,” wrote Wyoming governor Matt Mead back in May of 2013 (in the Northern Rockies, Montana and Idaho also opposed listing). But snow joke–snow matters. Wolverines are obligate snow denners who require remote, deep, and usually high elevations snow fields that persist well into spring. This is where natal and maternal dens enable them to birth and raise their young–in other words, enable them to surviveContinue reading

Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear delisting: Have your say

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T. Mangelson photo; click image for info

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

As I write, over 400 comments have been recorded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service on its proposal to delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from Endangered Species Act protection. That’s 400+ comments in the first 10 or so days since the comment period opened (it closes May 10, 2016, at 11:59 PM ET). If the comments below (original spelling intact) whet your appetite for more, know that some 17 webpages are available for your perusal:

“This is the time that the FWS needs to STOP catering to the special interest groups and take into consideration the thousands and thousands of people from everywhere who come to the Yellowstone region to view wildlife in their element – NOT to support trophy or sport hunting. Hasn’t the death of CECIL taught you anything? … DO NOT DELIST THE GRIZZLY BEARS…”  

“There are way too many Grizzly’s! They are wounding and killing people!!! Are we really that stupid!!! It is damn scary going hunting with these things around. I wish the knuckleheads that protect these beasts would go wonder the woods so they can feed on them!!!” 

“I write to OPPOSE the proposed delisting. My family visited Yellowstone a couple of years ago. We were fortunate enough to see a mother grizzly with her three cubs. …It was magical, amazing and connected my children to nature in a way they have never forgotten. Delisting these bears would be premature. …Indeed, the number one cause of death for grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem these days is human. Delisting would only exacerbate this.”

“Congratulations to the USFWS! Exactly what the ESA was created to accomplish. Please don’t allow the anti-hunter/environmentalist crowd to obstruct responsible state managed hunting seasons. Please support the North American “model” of wildlife management that has for over 100 years proven to be successful!”

“I’m opposed to removing the Greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. The support for delisting is primarily the result of a right wing political movement against the endangered species act itself. The science is being sacrificed for politics. The bears and ecosystem they support, are also being sacrificed. Follow the science. Ignore the politics. Do what you know is right.”

“It’s about time! … the grizzlies are out of control. The ecosystem can no longer sustain them at the rate they are expanding, I fully support this delisting and look forward to grizzlies being managed just like the other animals that have been a part of the extremely successful North American model of conservation. Please don’t let environmentalists interfere with facts and reason.”

“I strongly oppose the delisting of Grizzly Bears … Do not give in to those who would see these important bears as nothing more than a threat to their livestock, or a trophy to be gunned down. Allow science, not political pandering, to be the measuring stick of true recovery.”

“It is time to let the hunters do there part in conservation. Full support.”

But be forewarned–wading into this fray might set your head to spinning. Both sides claim that science is on their side. Many commenters–those clamoring for trophy hunting–consistently call for management to be turned over to the states in what is certainly an orchestrated campaign by hunting groups. Bears have lost their fear of humans, and hunting will fix that is another theme. A cattle association president bellyaches about “calf loss rates” due to grizzlies on national forest grazing allotments–the very same citizen-owned public lands that native grizzlies should have uncontested access to.

Remember Bear 399? You got acquainted with this special griz in “Bear 399: Delisting the grizzly you know.” The arguments against the premature delisting proposal are all laid out there: critical changes in food supply; habitat expansion and connectivity obstacles; immediate trophy hunting; too many conflict-related mortalities; and one that I failed to mention in that post (super-mom 399 notwithstanding)–“grizzly bears have one of the slowest reproductive rates among terrestrial mammals, due to their late age of first reproduction, small average litter size, and the long interval between litters: it may take a single female 10 years to replace herself in a population” (source). A list of good resources is also attached to that post. Everything needed to make a decent, succinct comment is there.

Will our comments against delisting change anything? Probably not. But let the final tally show that more people were selflessly concerned with species survival than with bragging rights to taxidermy mounts and bearskin rugs. I hold in my imagination the beautiful image of a human mom pointing out to her awe-struck kids the sight of a grizzly mom tending her own kids as she attempts to make her way through a human-dominated world that holds both wonder and respect for her life…and bullets for her death.

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Links to documents & commenting:

  • Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Removing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Population of Grizzly Bears From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, here. Includes link to docket folder, summary, and extensive supplementary and background information.
  • Docket folder summary: Includes a few comments, a link to “view all” comments, and a “comment now” button for your own two cents.

Yellowstone bison: The road to slaughter starts at home

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

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A young wild bison, separated from family, forlorn and frightened, is confined in a sorting pen at Yellowstone National Park’s capture facility. Click for photo credit & info.

(Please see 3/10/16 update in comments section.)

The specter of death hovers over the world’s first national park. Approximately 150 wild bison have been rounded up within the boundaries of their ostensible refuge, Yellowstone National Park, and are being held in a capture facility–also located within park boundaries. They number among those who will be killed and those already killed this season–as many as 900–and they’re slated for shipment to slaughter–perhaps as soon as the week of March 7th. However, before they make that final migration, they’ll be further terrorized. Watch what transpires (see video) when these massive, wild animals of wide open spaces are confined in small capture pens and squeeze chutes: witness their terror; see how they injure themselves and their herd mates–observe the gaping wounds and the indignities endured before they’re crammed into livestock carriers for the terrifying ride to industrialized death.  Continue reading

Bear 399: Delisting the grizzly you know

P1120382Kathleen Stachowski    
Other Nations

We humans don’t relate well to nonhuman animals at the population level–so goes the theory. But give us the particulars about a specific individual–tell us his or her story–and we get it: this is someone who has an interest in living. Someone with places to go…kids to raise…food to procure. Like us, this is someone who wants to avoid danger–while living the good life. This is an individual with a story–and a history.   Continue reading

Save a hog, eat a teacher: Challenging animal agriculture

Ethical Eating WordPress.com

Ethical Eating WordPress.com

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

What happens when you criticize animal agriculture? I’ll tell you. You’re called a “complete moron.” A “libtard.” An “idiot” and an “a**hole.” You’re told to “shut the f up.” Oh, and look, here’s Yoda in an Internet meme: “The retard is strong with this one.” The local newspaper is labeled a “commie” for printing your guest column (a “direct assault on our culture”), and further accused of printing “a bunch of propoganda [sic] stuffed with opinions.” OK, I’ll cop to the opinions…my column (read it here) appeared on the Opinion Page.   Continue reading