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.

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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.

Animal Advocacy — Live from Hawaii

David Cassuto

I’ve spent the last 5 days in Hawaii at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the quadrennial gathering of environmental leaders from all over the world. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) recently applied for membership in IUCN and was denied.  I have been lobbying for support for ALDF’s appeal from that denial.  It’s a bizarre world where organizations like Safari Club International — which advocates trophy hunting as a form of conservation — is granted membership where ALDF, an organization that actively works to protect animals both in and out of the wild, is denied.

So far the support has been very gratifying; many IUCN member organizations have stepped forward to support the appeal.  However, we remain a few signatures short of Continue reading

Animal Law & Environmental Law Conference

David Cassuto

From the email:

Animal Law and Environmental Law: Exploring the Connections and Synergies

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Settlement Provides Whales Protection from Naval Sonar Operations

Charles T. Jordan

A settlement has been reached that will provide whales and dolphins some peace and quiet in the waters around Hawaii and Southern California. The US Navy, on September 14, agreed to curb its use of sonar in these waters in order to prevent harming whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals.

Studies have shMap 1 Cali own that whales and dolphins use their ears to navigate and survive in their habitat. However, this has gotten more difficult due to the immense quantities of noise in our waters. One particularly devastating source of noise is sonar. Vessels use sonar to detect dangers in the water to prevent collision. Sonar systems send out a high pitched and far ranging sound waves which have been shown to be harmful to marine mammals. The Navy, in its own five year Pacific weapons testing and training plan, estimated that marine mammals would be effected nearly 9.6 million times during high-intensity sonar exercises and weapons detonations. Injuries to the animals include ruptured eardrums and temporary hearing loss which in turn affects the animal’s normal behavior patterns; resulting in stranding, habitat avoidance and abandonment, and even death.Map 2 Hawaii

For many years a number of environmental groups (including the NRDC, Earthjustice, and Greenpeace) have been fighting the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) in order to protect marine mammals from sonar interferences. Most recently in Conservation Council for Hawaii v. National Marine Fisheries Service, the plaintiffs sued NFMS to enforce the Navy’s five year training and testing plan in Hawaii and Southern California. On September 14 a settlement was reached, in which the Navy agreed to limit the use of sonar in the waters. These limits include; maintaining safe distances from mammals, limited number of sonar and weapon training and testing within certain areas near southern California (map 1), and prohibiting sonar and weapon training and testing in areas near Hawaii (map 2).

While this settlement represents a significant win for these marine mammals, and will certain do a lot to insure their survival, Continue reading

The Gluttony of Fishing: How Endangered Species Remain Unprotected if They’re Tasty

Megan Kelly

The Bluefin tuna has been on the endangered list for several years. Despite that, there is nothing in place to prevent them from being hunted and eaten. There are no catch limits, so fishermen feel no need to hold back on catching obscene numbers of endangered tuna. A single Bluefin tuna can sell for nearly $2 million. Such profits are of much greater concern to the fishermen than preserving the species. As such, the population has decreased substantially from being continuously hunted while no one seems to care that they are dangerously near extinction.

Hunting the Bluefin harms not only the species, but also the rest of the ecosystem. Because the Bluefin are natural predators, they serve as a major source of population control. They have few predators themselves, so as their population decreases, there will be a natural increase in the smaller animals that the Bluefin eats. Such overpopulation of the Bluefin’s prey can cause other species to become endangered, as an increase in one part of the food chain can mean serious danger to those one step below it. You can learn more about the Bluefin tuna here.

We can only hope the fisherman who profit from the Bluefin tuna will eventually realize their mistake. Because they’ve made such a point to catch as many as they can, they have caught more than Fishy Piccan be sustained naturally. They have even hunted baby tuna, which were unable to reproduce. By doing that, the fishermen have almost guaranteed that there will be a substantial population decrease, as the adults have been caught and the young ones with the unused ability to reproduce, have been served on plates as well. While this limit in the population will increase the boon one fish can bring, it will make fishing a more competitive field. This will mean that fishing for these tuna will no longer mean Continue reading

Quite the Trophy: The Truth Behind Trophy Hunting and Conservation

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Lena Cavallo

This past March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the request to import “trophies” of two American hunters  These “trophies” will be the remains of two dead black rhinos after a scheduled hunt in Namibia.  Black rhinos are listed as critically endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Therefore, approving such a request requires that the import will enhance the species’ survival.  Since 2003, Namibia has enforced the Black Rhino Conservation Strategy which authorizes the killing of five male rhinos annually to stimulate population growth.  When considering the request, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experienced an “unprecedented” level of public involvement.

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Rhinos are not the only animals targeted in these trophy hunts. All megafauna of the African ecosystem are available for the hunt. The African lion population has been in a serious decline, prompting individuals and organizations to demand that the species be listed as endangered under the kendall-jones-huntingESA. Studies have shown that trophy hunting is a direct cause to this decline, albeit not the only cause.

Trophy hunting has come under severe criticism by environmentalists, animal rights activists, and the general public.  Trophy hunters, like those involved in Continue reading

Poaching Tigers – An indicator that society is not well (or Hate the Poaching, Not the Poacher)

Elizabeth Smith

poaching-tiger pelts            Tigers have captured the hearts of millions and are one of the lucky species about whom society has decided has decided to care. They fall into the category of “charismatic megafauna” alongside pandas, elephants, and polar bears. To get into that category is exceptionally rare. For most species, not enough people care about their plight to result in a change of circumstances for the species. Ironically, even though tigers are plastered on the cover of the gifts World Wildlife Fund gives to members, on shirts, jewelry, and a whole host of other things, the tigers still face a very real danger that has yet to be solved. Siberian Tigers are in particular danger.

Although Vladimir Putin claims to want to save the tigers, Continue reading