EPA authorizes use of 'cyanide bombs' to protect livestock against predators

EPA authorizes use of 'cyanide bombs' to protect livestock against predators
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized the use of "cyanide bombs" to protect livestock against wild animals on Thursday after adding additional safety requirements in response to backlash from environmental groups.

The new requirements call for increased distances between where the M-44 chemical trap devices can be placed. Advocacy groups had raised concerns in August when the previous proposal was announced.

The EPA's earlier authorization for use of the devices — to manage populations of coyotes, foxes and other wild animals — was withdrawn a week after it was introduced, with the agency saying further analysis was needed.

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“Through our discussions, we identified new restrictions that will raise awareness and create additional buffers around where M-44s are placed, which will reduce the potential for unintended impacts on humans, pets, and other non-target animals,” EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Alexandra Dunn said in a statement Thursday.

The new restrictions require a 600-foot buffer around residences but make exceptions for landowners who have given permission for placement of the devices on their property.

The restrictions also call for 300 feet, up from 100 feet, between public paths and roads where the devices cannot be used.

But the revisions have not appeased groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, a vocal opponent of the August proposal.

Collete Adkins, a conservation director at the organization, said the EPA’s “appalling decision” to approve the "cyanide bombs" threatens people, pets and imperiled animals.

“The EPA imposed a few minor restrictions, but these deadly devices have just wreaked too much havoc to remain in use. To truly protect humans and wildlife from these poisonous contraptions, we need a nationwide ban,” Adkins said in a statement Thursday.

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Kelly Nokes, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, said the EPA "fails to meaningfully address the problem" with the updated restrictions.

"EPA is blatantly ignoring its fundamental duty to protect the public, our pets and native wildlife from the cruel, lethal impacts of cyanide bombs lurking on our public lands," Nokes said in a statement shared by the Center for Biological Diversity. "We will continue to hold our federal government accountable to the law, and will continue our fight for a ban on M-44s once and for all."

The EPA maintains that the M-44 devices are a vital and effective tool for farmers to protect animals from wild predators.

The agency highlighted a 2015 National Agriculture Statistics Survey that found coyotes accounted for 40.5 percent of cattle death losses due to predators, which is about 17,000 deaths.

The revised proposal is backed by some leaders of the livestock industry.

“We sincerely appreciate [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and EPA working together to ensure livestock producers have access to effective predator control, while also increasing public awareness and transparency,” American Sheep Industry Association President Benny Cox said in a statement shared by the EPA.

Cox said wildlife predators can lead to more than $232 million in annual losses for livestock producers.

“Livestock producers have to contend with predation of livestock on a daily basis and having access to every tool in the toolbox allows our ranchers to continue to protect the herd,” added Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.