Have you heard of M-44 cyanide bombs? I would doubt that you have. Not many police officers in America have either.
M-44 Cyanide Bombs are devices put down by US Wildlife Services to kill predators such as coyotes, feral dogs and foxes (feral and domestic cats are predators too). They are baited ‘traps’ which release sodium-cyanide powder when triggered. The powder becomes a gas when it contacts moisture. When a feral dog, for example, pulls on the baited capsule holder, the device ejects the sodium cyanide powder into the animal’s mouth. The powder reacts with moisture in the mouth releasing hydrogen cyanide gas. Death occurs within five minutes.
Zyklon B, a poison which many people will recognize as being used by Nazi Germany to murder about 1 million people in gas chambers, was also hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid). Zyklon B does contain other elements such as absorbents but the killing element is hydrogen cyanide. It is still produced under a different name.
The M-44 traps put down by US Wildlife Services kills animals in the same way that the Nazis killed Jews in the concentration camps. That itself is worrying enough but despite the obvious need for strict regulations on there use to protect the public and their pets, it seems that pets and the public are still being injured or killed. Are unintentional pet killings and human injuries too high to justify their use?
Boy and Dog
A high-profile case from Pocatello, Idaho, concerns a boy whose name is Canyon. He was 14 years of age and playing with his dog in a grassy field not far from home when he triggered an M-44 device. Canyon suffered numbness in his arms and nausea. He still has headaches and bad dreams. His dog was killed. His mother is fighting the government for using these dangerous devices. She is on a mission. She isn’t the only person who is concerned about their use.
She is suing the government but in response they say that Canyon and his parents are to blame for the injuries incurred. They argue that the boy and his parents were negligent and that their case should be dismissed.
Many pet dogs have been killed by cyanide bombs. The Washington Post reports that every few years someone’s dog is killed by an M-44 device. In total since 2008, 464 dogs have been killed. Of these around half were intentional (because a feral dog was killed) and the remainder unintentional. In 2016 more than 300 animals were unintentionally killed by these devices. They include raccoons, opossums, skunks, ravens and a black bear. Feral cats are not listed. Feral dogs should not be killed this way. If they are to be killed it should be humanely.
Domestic and Feral Cats?
However, I do not believe that because there are no listings of feral cats killed by these devices that there have been no killings. I wonder how many cats have been killed because they investigated a carcass of an animal killed by hydrogen cyanide poisoning.
The bottom line argument is that M-44 devices pose a threat to feral and domestic cats in my opinion. It must depend upon how near urban areas these devices are laid down and how good the warnings are. In the case of Canyon he was not far from his home and playing on public land. As far as I know the proper warnings were not erected.
I don’t know how commonplace it is for Wildlife Services to behave carelessly with respect these devices. Bearing a mind their lethal nature, strict adherence to the rules must be required. There are other issues.
The devices just don’t seem that safe to me and the records indicate that this concern is justified. These “traps” were designed to eradicate coyotes of which more than 100,000 have been killed by these devices since 2009. I know that the coyote is reviled in the USA by many people because they are great survivors and they adapt to human settlements. However, I wonder whether people find it unacceptable to kill 100,000 of his animals by hydrogen cyanide poisoning annually. Yes, coyotes kill cats but I’m not sure that the policy of putting down a very toxic, lethal poison with a sign next to it (to protect the public) on public land is a wise idea.
The risk of unintentional harm to non-targeted animals and people is too high. The use of hydrogen cyanide to kill is sinister.