BLM to finally ban use of dangerous "cyanide bombs" on public land

Hikers walk on the trail toward Mount Democrat near Alma
Citing safety concerns, the Bureau of Land Management will ban and remove the devices, which have long been used for wildlife control purposes (Image credit: The Washington Post / Contributor)

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced it is taking action to implement a blanket ban on dangerous M-44 devices that deliver sodium cyanide on public land.

The devices, which critics and wildlife advocates term "cyanide bombs," have been used on public lands since the 1960s as a form of wildlife control. Consisting of a spring-powered ejector and a sodium cyanide capsule wrapped in a bait-scented cloth, the devices are designed to lure animals considered pests, such as coyotes, foxes and wild dogs which prey on livestock. 

The device is driven into the ground and when an animal bites on it, the spring sprays a dose of sodium cyanide into the animal's mouth, killing it within minutes.

In a press release announcing the prohibition, the BLM cites several instances of the devices harming humans, including a 2017 incident in Idaho when a family dog was killed and a child injured and another where a recreationist triggered a device, resulting in long-term injury and ongoing health problems.

The decision to ban M-44s follows existing bans or imitations in Idaho, Oregon, California and Washington. There is pending legislation to ban the devices on all public lands, and their use is currently prohibited on National Wildlife Refuges and National Park Service lands.

The BLM manages some 245 million acres of public land in the US including wilderness areas, historic trails and landmarks, almost all of which is available for camping and recreating on for free. 

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.