Rodent control sparks controversy in Gypsum | VailDaily.com

Rodent control sparks controversy in Gypsum

Uinta ground squirrel on grass by burrow in early summer

GYPSUM — In our area, ground squirrels will generally find a way to occupy vacant land. How to control those rodents in populated areas can be controversial.

Some residents of the Chatfield Corners neighborhood in Gypsum are concerned about the way ground squirrels are controlled on vacant land near Gypsum Creek Middle School and Red Hill Elementary School.

Eagle County Schools owns part of that property. The town of Gypsum owns the rest.

Prozap

“It’s their habitat, and we’re infringing on it. The more we try to do, the more nature seems to kick us in the mouth.”Steve SheldonGypsum Animal Hospital owner

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The district was recently doing rodent control on its part of the property, and posted signs around the property that pesticides were being used. The pesticide in question is called Prozap, which comes in pellets and is dropped into rodent holes. The rodents are supposed to eat it and die without coming back above ground.

That may not always work.

Nicole Constantin and her family live near that vacant land. Her kids walk across it to go to school and her two dogs play there. Last week, Constantin's newest dog, a young Newfoundland terrier, got hold of a dead rodent. Constantin tried to take the dead animal from the dog, which eventually swallowed the rodent. Constantin doesn't know if that rodent was one of the poisoned animals, but noted her dog vomited not long after eating the carcass.

Dogs being dogs, it's not unusual for them to eat dead things. Constantin is worried about what might happen if a dog eats a poisoned ground squirrel.

The other family dog in the Constantin home is a miniature dachshund, and she worries what might happen if that small dog comes across a poisoned rodent carcass.

'My kids play out there'

Constantin believes the district should look at other methods of rodent control in that area.

"My kids play out there," she said.

In an email, Eagle County Schools Chief Operating Officer Sandra Mutchler wrote, "The district is always looking at alternative options to safely and humanely mitigate rodents for the safety of our students. At present, we use a chemical agent which is considered a best-practice for mitigating our property and we post signage to inform people that a chemical has been used in that area."

Using carbon monoxide

Town of Gypsum crews do use different rodent control tactics. Jeff Shreeve, the town's public works director, said the town uses a device that shoots carbon monoxide into rodent holes. That gas dissipates when exposed to the atmosphere, and isn't harmful to anything that might happen to eat a carcass.

The idea is to stop up a handful of holes, then inject the gas. Animals then die from asphyxiation.

"If you're doing it right, you're burying them," Shreeve said.

The town works to be as careful as possible with pest and weed control, Shreeve said. The town uses only chemicals available to the general public, and looks at methods such as carbon monoxide for pests.

"If I can control it without going to the extreme, that's what I'll do," Shreeve said.

Dr. Steve Sheldon, owner of Gypsum Animal Hospital, said how to control rodents has sparked debate as long has he's lived in the valley.

"It's their habitat, and we're infringing on it," Sheldon said. But the animals do need to be controlled, he added. Still, Sheldon said extreme methods of pest control seem to have unintended consequences.

"The more we try to do, the more nature seems to kick us in the mouth," he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 and smiller@vaildaily.com.