What are cyanide bombs for animals?
What are cyanide bombs for animals? Also known as M44 cyanide devices, they are a cyanide gun or cyanide trap used for the killing of coyotes, feral dogs, and foxes.
The device is made out of four parts: a capsule holder wrapped with a soft material, a small plastic capsule containing 0.88 g of sodium cyanide, a spring-powered ejector, and a 5-7 inch stake.
The capsule holder is smeared with a scented bait to attract animals and make them bite and pull on it. This triggers the device and a dose of cyanide is propelled inside the victim’s mouth when it combines with saliva it produces poisonous cyanide gas(1).
Can cyanide kill animals?
Sadly, the US government continues to approve the use of “cyanide bombs” to kill animals considered as “pests” such as coyotes, foxes, and dogs that live in the wild.
Though there are thousands of objections to the use of M-44 devices, since they kill more than just wild animals, they continue to be used regardless.
These bombs aren’t available for anyone to be purchased, but they are used to kill large numbers of wild animals by Wildlife Services – which is part of the US Department of Agriculture – on behalf of farmers and ranch owners(2).
Why did cyanide bombs get reassessed?
In 2018,the US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to assess the use of the M-44 devices after a lawsuit was brought by four conservation and animal welfare groups.
These devices have been used since the 1960s. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that 200,000 people wrote letters of objection to the use of M-44 devices during the 18-month assessment period.
The Centre for Biological Diversity states that 99.9% of responses to the EPA’s proposal were in support of a ban. However, the EPA still decided that the devices were still safe to use.
This occurred when groups of ranchers and “stakeholders”- including farmers offered their support. They said that the cyanide bombs stopped predators from killing livestock and that a ban would result in farmers losing money.
The Wildlife and Environment agencies reacted with disappointment after the decision to reauthorize the use of the M-44 devices was concluded(3).
“Cyanide traps can’t be used safely by anyone, anywhere,” says Collete Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Centre for Biological Diversity.
“While the EPA added some restrictions, these deadly devices have caused too much harm to remain in use. We need a permanent nationwide ban to protect people, pets, and imperiled wildlife from this poison.”
The new restrictions included a rule that says the devices can’t be placed within 100ft of a public road or path, up from 50ft, and that warning signs must be visible 15ft from the device, down from 25ft.
How does cyanide kill?
If a human inhales a high dose of cyanide, it would inevitably lead to a coma within seconds – stopping the heart from beating, the lungs from breathing, and causes seizures.
A lower dose is still fatal, causing a slow death, where the symptoms will be preceded by headaches, vertigo, confusion, and weakness.
According to veterinary toxicologists – people who study the effects of toxic or poisonous materials – it requires many pits to cause signs of concern.
The exact number required to produce cyanide toxicity depends on a dog’s size for example, and whether the animal chews the pit. The poison is situated in the kernel, the true seed at the center of the pit(4).
If animals chew the pit or ingest broken pits, the poison is released. Cyanide toxicity can be deadly within a few minutes. Even small amounts lead to symptoms such as salivation, rapid or difficulty in breathing, convulsions, or paralysis.
The gums turn bright cherry red, an indicator that oxygen in the blood can’t be released to the cells, causing suffocation. Cyanide toxicity is a medical emergency.
If you suspect this, call your veterinarian in advance as you bring your pet to the hospital so that the medics can have supplies ready to immediately start treatment.
Did you know?
– In the UK, it’s illegal to kill protected animals such as badgers or deers with poison, and it is against the law to kill any animal with a snare, bow, crossbow, explosive, or decoy.
– In 2018, more than 6,000 animals were killed by the use of M-44 devices, with several hundred animals being unintentional victims.
– The lethal dosage of cyanide for most animal species is just ~2 mg/kg.