An agreement forged Wednesday between six conservation groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, which kills animals preying on livestock or damaging farm fields, restricts the federal agency’s wolf-killing activities in Idaho.
The new restrictions, banning the use of snares and M-44 cyanide bombs, will remain in place until Wildlife Services completes a detailed analysis of the environmental impacts of killing wolves, according to the settlement.
“Wildlife Services won’t be able to keep ignoring the science that shows that killing predators does not reduce livestock losses,” said Talasi Brooks, a staff attorney for Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that resulted in the settlement.
Effective immediately, Wildlife Services can no longer use lethal methods to target gray wolves in wilderness areas, in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area or throughout the entire Sawtooth and Wood River valleys.
On other public lands, only foothold traps can be used by Wildlife Services’ agents.
“Wildlife Services will only use foothold traps with offset jaws, pan-tension devises set to a minimum of eight pounds of resistance, and swivels,” the settlement agreement states.
Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, another of the plaintiffs, said those restrictions will help keep smaller animals from being caught in the traps.
Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Terry Thompson said the court settlement does not apply to Fish and Game employees, and hunters and trappers are already prohibited from using M-44s.
In March 2017, Pocatello teen Canyon Mansfield stumbled upon an M-44 cyanide bomb—placed by Wildlife Services—killing his dog and injuring himself. A federal ban on M-44s went into effect shortly after, but the Trump administration reversed that ban this past December to aid farmers with predator control.
M-44 bombs, which spray sodium cyanide into the mouths of animals that grab them, killed over 19,800 animals between 2017 and 2018, according to Wildlife Services data. Many of those were unintentional targets: opossums, raccoons and bears, the data showed.
“Cyanide bombs are vicious and indiscriminate, and too often lead to the suffering of nontarget wildlife and pets,” Santarsiere said.
This week’s settlement, filed in federal District Court in Boise, came after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that dismissed a lawsuit challenging Wildlife Services’ wolf-killing in Idaho.
“We’re delighted to have delivered a reprieve on Wildlife Services’ wolf-killing in the Sawtooth Valley and Wood River corridor,” Brooks said.