(Un)controlled Lethality

A screening of Lethal Control at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference displays the dangers of cyanide devices

M-44s are lethal devices containing sodium cyanide. They are used by federal Wildlife Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) to control predator wildlife — namely, keep coyotes and other predators away from livestock and humans. 

Despite the intended purpose of controlling wildlife, M-44s have caused death and illnesses to humans and animals in several states.

Predator Defense, a wildlife advocacy organization, will screen the documentary, Lethal Control, which covers the dangers of M-44s, at the upcoming Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC). 

Kelly Nokes, attorney with the nonprofit law firm Western Environmental Law Center tells Eugene Weekly M-44s are “indiscriminate killing devices” that “don’t need to exist.” 

Nokes lists flaggery, herding dogs and range riders as non-lethal alternatives to protecting livestock from the potential dangers of coyotes and foxes. 

The M-44 device, a spring-activated metal rod that sticks up from the ground about an inch, has been described by some as resembling a sprinkler head. Once nudged or yanked — regardless of whether it’s a coyote or a border collie — it releases sodium cyanide and the deadly effects are almost immediate. 

“With all the victims we’ve helped over the years — this never leaves them; it’s a tragic loss,” says Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, of those who have lost a pet to one of these devices.

Predator Defense is working with state Sen. Floyd Prozanski on a Senate bill to ban the use of M-44s in Oregon. The group has spent almost 30 years trying to get M-44s banned.

“The bill itself is coming forth because there are a number of us who feel that it is a device that should not be used in controlling wildlife because of the seriousness of harm that it can do to an innocent person or animal,” Prozanski says. 

Senate Bill 580, which seeks to ban M-44s in Oregon, will have a public hearing Thursday, Feb. 28. The bill is co-sponsored by state Rep. David Gomberg. 

 “I just personally feel there are ways you can deal with controlling wildlife without using this type of device,” Prozanski tells EW. 

Lethal Control, produced by Jamie Drysdale, follows the story of the the Mansfield family in Pocatello, Idaho and their encounter in 2017 with an M-44. Canyon Mansfield, then 14, was walking with his dog, Kasey, when they he the cyanide device. It poisoned Canyon and killed the Mansfield’s dog.

Fahy and the Mansfield family will be going to Washington D.C. for a screening of Lethal Control on April 2.

Lethal Control will be screened at the conference at 11 am Saturday, March 2, in the Redwood Room. A 35-minute panel discussion will follow. 

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