Wildlife Services Issues Guidelines for M-44 Use
June 16, 2017

The Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service's Wildlife Services issued additional guidance on the use of M-44 predator control devices to its staff on Thursday, June 15, and announced it will be expanding its review of the devices to conduct a comprehensive analysis of their use and placement.

M-44s are an important tool in reducing the loss of livestock due to predators, which is a significant and costly problem for producers. WS is committed to the safe and responsible use of these devices, and the new guidance and expanded analysis are intended to reduce risks when using the M-44 device.

"ASI will continue to actively work this issue due to the importance of this coyote control tool," said American Sheep Industry Association Executive Director Peter Orwick. "USDA/APHIS/WS has already identified several additional safety protocols, and we believe the analysis to be done this summer will show the effectiveness and safety of the control. We believe flexibility on location is key to adapt to very different terrain of West Virginia versus Wyoming, for example."

While the expanded comprehensive review is underway, WS personnel will continue to follow interim guidelines, instituted in late March, that require M-44 devices to be placed at least a half mile from occupied residences. The expanded review, which will be conducted by scientists at WS' National Wildlife Research Center, is expected to be completed this fall and will assist with final decisions about the best and safe use of the device. The analysis, as well as any policy changes that may result from the review, will be shared publicly. The timeframe for sharing these findings will allow producers to make important management decisions in advance of colder weather when livestock predation traditionally increases.

Based on WS' initial review of M-44 procedures, the program is also issuing new guidance to its employees. The program will use more durable and visible signage to make it clear to residents and non-residents that M-44s have been set in an area, and these signs will now be placed within 15 feet of each device, rather than the 25 feet established by Environmental Protection Agency restrictions. One elevated sign will be required for each device placed.

Since WS first instituted its interim guidance on the half-mile perimeter for M-44 devices, program personnel have been proactively communicating with residents near this radius to ensure they are aware when devices are present. This proactive communication with residents about the placement of M-44 devices is a permanent policy change and personnel must also document that this notification has taken place. WS will use maps, GPS, GIS and other available technologies to assure devices are placed appropriately on public and privates lands, and to identify the perimeter. In addition, WS will continue to require written approval from the owner or cooperator of the land where any M-44 device is to be placed.

WS understands the public's concern regarding the use of M-44s, and, in addition to these new guidelines and interim procedures, WS will continue to follow existing EPA-use restrictions to ensure that all devices are set in a manner that minimizes the chances of attracting non-target species. WS will also continue to prohibit M-44 use in territory that is known to have endangered species that might be attracted to the device.

Wildlife Services has a long track record of safe and effective use of M-44s. Reviews by the EPA and Office of the Inspector General affirm that WS uses these devices, along with other predator damage management tools, safely and responsibly.

Coyotes, foxes and feral dogs cause substantial damage to livestock and poultry producers, particularly those with sheep and goats. In a 2015 survey of producers, the National Agricultural Statistics Service found that coyotes nationwide killed an estimated 118,032 sheep and lambs, valued at an estimated $12.1 million and $20.4 million, respectively for all predators. Dogs, the second most common livestock predator, were credited with 21.4 percent of predator losses in adult sheep and 10.3 percent of predator losses to lambs.