Cyanide devices aimed at killing coyotes would be banned in Oregon under a bill that supporters claim is necessary to protect children, pets and non-target species.

The Oregon Farm Bureau, however, has urged lawmakers against approving the proposal, arguing the M-44 devices are needed for controlling the predators in severe weather and rugged terrain.

The contraptions were described by critics as “indiscriminate killers” during a Feb. 28 hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Senate Bill 580, which would prohibit predator control implements that rely on cyanide.

“This is not a tool that we need. This is a tool that is dangerous and ineffective,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland.

There’s no way for signs to prevent wildlife from engaging with the devices and the “evidence is overwhelming” they regularly kill non-target animals, he said.

Between 2006 and 2016, the devices have unintentionally killed 376 domestic dogs, according to USDA statistics compiled by the Predator Defense environmental group.

Proponents of SB 580 also testified about incidents in which M-44s have sickened people, such as the 2017 case in which such a device poisoned an Idaho teenager and killed his dog.

Danielle Clair of Benton County recounted witnessing the “horrific” death of her dog, which struggled for eight hours after it encountered one of the devices in 2002.

“That was probably the most horrible day of my life,” Clair said, noting that several young children lived near the device’s location at the time. “It is a matter of time before a child is killed.”

Jonathan Sandau, public policy specialist with Oregon Farm Bureau, testified against SB 580, arguing that M-44s are deployed only by trained agents of USDA’s Wildlife Services division.

Since 2017, the agency has not deployed the devices on public lands in Oregon and has only used them in three Oregon counties, he said.

“These devices are used in Oregon under tight regulations and in limited capacity,” Sandau said.

If the USDA’s Wildlife Services division was prohibited from using M-44s, that would force the agency to use more expensive predator control tools that would draw resources from other programs, he said.

When asked by Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, about the “collateral damage” of pets killed by M-44s, Sandau said, “There’s been a learning curve” in signage and placement of the devices.

“The goal is always to limit the collateral damage,” he said.

“It seems like the learning curve hasn’t quite caught up,” said Prozanski, noting that M-44s have been used for decades.

I've been working at Capital Press since 2006 and I primarily cover legislative, regulatory and legal issues.

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