U.S. EPA Allows Continued Use Chemical Traps to Control Predators

Published March 9, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the continued use of cyanide traps, known as M-44s, to control predators, primarily coyotes, on public lands.

As part of its recertification of M-44 traps, EPA imposed two new restrictions on their use on public lands. M-44 traps may not be placed within 600 feet of residences, unless landowners give written permission to place the devices closer to their property. EPA also increased the buffer for M-44 placement from 100 feet to 300 feet from designated public paths and roads.

Some activists oppose use of the traps because they sometimes kill nontargeted species.

Protecting Livestock

Environmentalists attacking the use of M-44s to control predators don’t care how critical they are to livestock operations, says Chase Adams, senior policy and information director for the American Sheep Industry Association.

“It seems like we’re constantly under attack from environmental groups who don’t want us to have the tools we need to control predators,” Adams said. “There is a misconception about M-44s being bombs. They’re not bombs; they’re spring-loaded bait stations with sodium cyanide capsules.

“When a coyote or other predator pulls the bait, the capsule filled with sodium cyanide is shot into its mouth,” Adams said. “This tool remains very valuable to farmers and ranchers.”

Varying by State

Idaho and Oregon’s legislatures banned the use of M-44s in their states, but they remain an important tool in states such as Colorado, Montana, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming, Adams says.

“M-44s are very heavily used in states where we don’t have other methods,” Adams said. “In states like Montana and Wyoming, where M-44s are responsible for 15 percent to 20 percent of the coyotes taken, they are used to complement a program removing coyotes through aerial gunning.

“In West Virginia, for example, where the size of pastures, the mountainous terrain, and heavy ground cover renders aerial programs worthless, the only tool folks have for lethal control is the M-44, which is responsible for taking between 80 and 90 percent of coyotes removed in the state.” Adams said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.