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A Manmade Threat in the Wilds of Utah- The M-44 Sodium Cyanide Capsule


At the risk of turning a website about desert adventures into a political platform, I will do my best to keep articles such as the one below confined to the Desert Inspired page. I will do my best to present information and experience throughout the rest of the website, keeping controversial topics, and my opinions, limited and confined as possible to the Desert Inspired page. The opinions below are my own, but the threat from these devices to everyone visiting public lands is very real.

The M-44 sodium cyanide capsule is a spring loaded, baited trap designed to attract predators to bite the device, triggering the spring which delivers a cloud of sodium cyanide into their mouth. The animal is said to die quickly, although some reports which I found claim death can take hours. The traps are deadly, not only to predators, but to all wildlife, pets and humans.

image of M-44 sodium cyanide capsule in place.The image at left shows one of the devices in place. If you come across one of them, leave it alone and stay safely away from the device. If you have a dog with you, remember that they are baited. Leash your dog immediately.

I have not found information yet on the effective range of one of these devices, or on what is considered a safe distance from one that might inadvertently be triggered by, for example, a long stick you might drop on it. Once I find these parameters I will certainly post it immediately.

The good news is that a House bill has been introduced, H.R. 4775, to ban the devices and the poison, and another form of the poison and its delivery system- Compound 1080 Livestock Protection Collars. Urgent action is needed to help get this bill passed. Visit the Trap Free Oregon website to find out what you can do.

Visit the Sinapu website for more information on this subject.

See the Material Safety Data Sheet for sodium cyanide.

Visit the E.P.A. page for sodium cyanide reregestration. This page has information on the current petition to the E.P.A. to ban its use and the the M-44.

Read the 1994 Reregistration Eligibility Fact Sheet from the E.P.A. for sodium cyanide.

For more on this topic, links to outside information, and my plans for further research, visit the Desert Explorer blog.

Poisoned bobcat on BLM land, central New Mexico, near Carrizozo, June, 2004. Photo by Gerald Trainor. At left is a poisoned bobcat I found on BLM land in New Mexico, near the town of Carizozo, in June of 2004. Nearby on a fencepost, a few hundred meters off as I recall, was one of the standard warning signs about poison traps in the area. After finding the dead cat I went into Carizozo and visited the local sheriff. I told them what I had found, and between the three people in the office, they came up with a person I could contact to lodge a complaint. I called once, got a message, and continued on my way north.

I question whether this bobcat posed a threat to the local cattle population. In fact, I would argue that the threat was the other way around. This should be obvious from the photo.


Below are my comments submitted to the EPA website on this issue, dated 02 March, 2008, should anyone care to read them. There appears to be lag time between submission and posting, at least a few days. The comments can also be found along with hundreds of others, at www.regulations.gov, or by clicking here. I eagerly awiat the outcome.

Sodium cyanide, M-44's, and Compound 1080 should be banned immediately and for
good. The dangers they present to non-target animals and humans far outweighs
their perceived benefits. These devices cannot discern between species, and
therefore are responsible for the death of countless non-target animalsraccoons,
ringtails, skunks, birds, and pet dogs to name a few.

In recent years there have been a number of instances of humans being poisoned
by these devices, both civilians and federal agents responsible for device
placement.

Besides the dangers inherent in the use of these poisons, their necessity has
not been scientifically documented, that is, it is not clear whether predators
pose the threat to livestock that has been claimed.

I understand the needs of the American rancher, and sympathise with them. Their
needs should be respected, but not at the cost of endangering the public with
booby traps that are lethal enough to kill 10 full-grown humans. There are
other options, both lethal and non-lethal. One option not often mentioned is
the use of American hunters in predator control, if such control is indeed
necessary. The cost to the public for the Wildlife Services branch of the
Department of Agriculture is 100 million dollars per year. A far less amount
could be allocated to hunters, through the Department of Wildlife, which should
be responsible for such actions.

Regardless of which side of the predator control issues one falls, the fact is
that these poisons are lethal, dangerous, and pose a serious threat to the
public. Therefore, these poisons should be banned.




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