Facts on Predator Control Tools
April 7, 2017
Following news of the loss of a domestic dog due to improper tampering with a predator control M-44 cyanide device, a lawsuit has been filed by the Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Biological Diversity calling for these tools to be banned in the future.
While the media, spurred by activists, is trying to paint a picture of reckless disregard using hyperbole and exaggeration, it is important to look at the actual use and current regulation of these tools. The M-44 is a spring-loaded device that delivers an amount of sodium cyanide when triggered. It is the second most effective tool livestock producers have for predator control, second only to the aerial program nation-wide. Each of these devices uses only a small amount of the active chemical and once triggered, the remaining sodium cyanide is degraded to non-detectible levels within about 24 hours and has low mobility.
These devices are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, requiring that all registered pesticides include directions to minimize risk to humans, pets and protected species. EPA mandates 26 use-restrictions, which provide guidance for the application, storage, disposal and training requirements. In addition, each state pesticide authority goes through a similar process prior to a pesticide being used within the state and each applicator is certified and trained on the proper use of these tools. The states and USDA/Wildlife Services also conduct inspections on field activities to verify proper use of the M-44. Considering a petition to ban the use of these tools in 2009, the EPA determined that predation accounts for a significant number of livestock losses and found that the use of M-44s have significant benefits for reducing predation without negative long-term impact on the target predators or other non-target species.
It is also important to remember there has never been a human fatality due to the use of an M-44 device, and incidents of injury to humans is rare. In most cases, an individual harmed by one of these devices has failed to heed warning signs placed at the entrance of an area where these tools are in use, or the warning signs next to the device. Wildlife Services personnel do not use these devices on any property unless requested by the land owner or manager, and a valid written agreement must be in place. Wildlife Services is also required to inspect all deployed M-44 devices weekly, and replace any missing or damaged signs.
Predation costs the livestock industry more than $137 million annually in death losses. Effective predator control is a top priority for the sheep industry and in the dozen states that use the M-44 device, it is a critical tool for livestock protection. Maintaining the use of these tools while protecting the safety of people and domestic pets has always been the highest consideration of producers and wildlife managers. The American sheep industry must ensure the public understands the role of these tools, the threat predation poses to our industry and the steps we all take to ensure these tools are used safely. More information can be found on the ASI website, https://sheepusa.org. Industry leaders are encouraged to use these talking points and briefs with state and federal leaders, and the media.