April 11, 2017 / 2:36 AM / 3 months ago

U.S. halts use of 'cyanide bombs' to kill coyotes in Idaho

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SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - The U.S. government, acting after a so-called cyanide bomb used to kill coyotes temporarily blinded a 14-year-old boy and killed his dog, halted use of the devices in Idaho on Monday, at least for now.

Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in a letter to an Idaho conservation group that it had suspended all use of the deadly mechanism, or M-44s, in its targeting of "nuisance" animals in the state and removed the spring-loaded devices that had already been deployed there.

"We take seriously the incident in Idaho," Jason Suckow, regional director of  Wildlife Services, wrote in the letter to Western Watersheds Project about an M-44 that wounded the boy and killed his yellow Labrador retriever on March 16 by shooting a gram of cyanide sodium into its mouth.

Suckow said the agency is reviewing its operating procedures in the aftermath of the incident and pledged to give the conservation group 30 days notice if the agency intended in future to deploy M-44s in the state.

The Humane Society of United States, WildEarth Guardians and other groups earlier this month filed a lawsuit seeking to force the U.S. government to ban use of the cyanide bombs and a poison called Compound 1080 to kill animals like coyotes but which recently killed a protected wolf in Oregon and three pet dogs, including the Labrador retriever in Idaho.

Conservationists on Monday hailed the government’s decision to suspend use of M-44s in Idaho for the time being.

“But we will remain vigilant to ensure the moratorium is enforced,”  Michelle Lute of WildEarth Guardians, said in a telephone interview.

Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Mary Milliken

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