M44 (cyanide device)

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The M44 cyanide device (also called a 'cyanide gun' or a 'cyanide trap') is used for the elimination of suspected livestock predators, such as coyotes blamed for the loss of profits. It lures predators with an attractive smell, often from a small piece of bait, then uses a spring to propel a dosage of sodium cyanide into the predator's mouth. The sodium cyanide combines with water in the mouth to produce poisonous cyanide gas.

The M44 was invented in the 1960s to replace a different device known as a 'coyote-getter' which made use of powdered cyanide ejected by a primer. The M44 reduces the risk to humans from the earlier device.[1] They are considered relatively safe because of the high level of selectivity they're supposed to afford.

Use of the M44 device has been criticised by animal welfare and environmental groups, as the devices have many unintended victims, including pets and endangered species; strongly indicative of a lack of selectivity, instead of the supposed high level. In 2003, Mr. Dennis Slaugh of Vernal, Utah, was on public lands and mistook an M-44 for a survey marker. When he pulled on it, the device shot sodium cyanide powder on his face and chest causing him to become violently ill.[2] In February 2006, an M44 device killed a man's dog in Utah, as the dog and owner were walking through public land. The man was also affected by the cyanide in the device, and is seeking compensation from the US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Service, along with the Utah Department of Food and Agriculture.[3]

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