The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reauthorized the use of "cyanide bomb" chemical traps as a method for killing wild animals, according to CBS News.
The controversial traps, which can be used on coyotes, dogs, foxes and other wild animals across the country, have been in use since the 1960s despite objections from environmental organizations.
Technically referred to as M-44 devices, the traps lure wildlife with bait before spraying sodium cyanide into their mouths. They are used to protect livestock from predators.
However, the traps have sometimes endangered more than just predators. In 2017, M-44s temporarily blinded a child and killed three pet dogs in Wyoming and Idaho, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The family of the child sued the government for $150,000 following the incident.
"Cyanide traps are indiscriminate killers that can't be used safely by anyone, anywhere," Collette Adkins, the Center for Biological Diversity's carnivore conservation director, said in a statement earlier this year.
The devices are mainly deployed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, as well as state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas. Wildlife Services used M-44s to kill approximately 6,500 animals in 2018, according to the Guardian.
The EPA proposed a renewed license for cyanide traps at the end of 2018, but the idea was met with widespread disapproval. More than 99.9 percent of people commenting on the proposed renewal were against the continued use of M-44s, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center.
Despite the negative feedback, the agency reauthorized the devices this earlier this week.
The EPA has added new restrictions to the use of M-44s, though. For example, the devices cannot be placed within 100 feet of a public road or pathway — the previously required distance was 50 feet. Also, anyone living within half a mile of the cyanide traps must be notified of their placement.
Still, some environmental activists worry that the restrictions will have no effect on safety.
"In my 25 years working with M-44 victims, I've learned that Wildlife Services' agents frequently do not follow the use restrictions," Brooks Fahy, executive director of the nonprofit Predator Defense, told CBS. "And warning signs will not prevent more dogs, wild animals and potentially children from being killed. They cannot read them. M-44s are a safety menace and must be banned."
A final decision on the use of M-44s is expected to come in 2021, according to the New York Post.