Coyote-killing devices still allowed in Wyoming

JACKSON, Wyo. — There is no discussion in Wyoming about banning a device designed to kill coyotes by spraying cyanide when triggered, a state official said.

A national debate about the predator-killing M-44 device is unfolding in the wake of a hospitalized teenager and three dogs and a wolf that have been killed recently in Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division announced it would discontinue using the device in Idaho. But the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, at this stage, is not planning to follow suit.

There has been no discussion about banning M-44s in Wyoming, Kent Drake, the state Agriculture Department’s predator management coordinator, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “In the Wyoming case, the applicator did nothing wrong,” Drake said.

The Wyoming incident involving the device occurred on unmarked private land north of Casper and claimed the lives of two bird-hunting dogs in mid-March.

At any given time, there are about 300 cyanide-propelling M-44s protruding from the ground in Wyoming.

In Wyoming there are 26 restrictions regulating the use of M-44s, guidelines that are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Among the restrictions is a prohibition against putting the poison “where federally listed threatened or endangered animal species might be adversely affected.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also must be consulted.

U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service lands are off-limits for agricultural producers hoping to reduce numbers of coyotes or foxes, the only species that can be legally targeted with M-44s.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture does not allow the general public to use the baited sodium cyanide canisters on Bureau of Land Management property.

Drake said that “incidental take” from the poisonous contraptions permitted by the state has been “very, very limited” in his decade-long tenure.

“I think we’ve lost a black bear. There was a wolf, but that was in an area of the state where there was not known to be wolves at that time,” Drake said. “There was a rancher’s dog lost. A couple ravens. That’s most all of it. It’s not too much.”

Lisa Robertson is one Jackson Hole resident who thinks any animal killed by M-44s — targeted or not — is one too many.

“They should have been banned a long time ago,” said Robertson, founder of the animal rights advocacy group Wyoming Untrapped. “They should have been history, and it should have been Wildlife Services’ decision. It ought to be their decision to ban them now.”

Western Watersheds Project Executive Director Erik Molvar was behind the petition that led to Wildlife Services’ ban of M-44s in Idaho.

Molvar said Wyoming wasn’t targeted for a ban in the petition, but there has been talk of expanding the bans to other Western states. Western Watersheds also backs imposing a nationwide ban on M-44s and another poisonous predator-killing device, Compound 1080.

“It’s hard to justify the fact that taxpayer dollars are being used to kill native wildlife,” he said, “when there are so many other ecologically and scientifically sound alternatives.”


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