BOISE – U.S. officials on Monday temporarily stopped the use of predator-killing cyanide traps in Idaho after one sickened a young boy and killed his dog last month after they checked it out.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in a letter that it had halted all use of the traps on state, federal and private land in Idaho in response to a petition from 19 conservation and wildlife groups.
The spring-activated devices called M-44s look like water sprinkler heads and are embedded into in the ground but spray cyanide when triggered by animals attracted by bait smeared on the devices. They’re used to kill coyotes and other livestock predators.
The 14-year-old Idaho boy was injured last month when he checked one out with his dog on federally-owned land about 500 yards from his house on the outskirts of the small city of Pocatello. His Labrador retriever dog died.
“This is a good first step, but let’s keep going. We’ve seen these types of moratoriums in the past and the federal government keeps bringing them back,” said Mark Mansfield, the boy’s father and a physician. “The kids in Arizona deserve just as much protection as the kids in Idaho.”
Mansfield said he has met with representatives of U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, to push for a national ban of the devices. His son suffered headaches after he was exposed on March 16.
The groups that petitioned for the use of the devices to be stopped will be warned 30 days in advance if authorities decide to start using them again in Idaho, the Agriculture Department said.
“We take seriously the incident in Idaho, which involved the unintentional activation of a small spring-loaded device,” said Jason Suckow, a regional director of the department’s wildlife services division.
M-44s killed about 12,500 coyotes in 2016, mostly in Western U.S. states. According to the petition, the devices over the last 20 years have killed about 40 dogs and injured a handful of people. The division said it plans to review its operating procedures for use of the devices.
“We are pleased with their response today, but our satisfaction is dimmed slightly that this ban might not be permanent,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, which was one of the conservation groups to sign the petition.
Separately, other environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in Montana earlier this month claiming use of M-44s and Compound 1080 – a poison placed in collars worn by livestock and ingested by attacking predators – violate the Endangered Species Act and could harm non-targeted species.
The lawsuit seeks a ban across the United States until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consults with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about how the poisons could harm federally protected species and their habitats.
Updates with comments from father of boy sickened by cyanide. With AP Photos.
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