Potguts may have been poisoned near Kimball Junction
May 16, 2008
Julian Massey fears a weasel that scampered near his condo might be dead after he learned potguts at Kimball Junction were allegedly poisoned.
The bushy-tailed animals resemble ground squirrels and small prairie dogs, Massey explained in an interview.
"If the homeowners in Redstone want to live right beside a nature preserve, you would imagine they would want to save the bottom of the food chain that just happens to run around and eat grass here," the 39-year-old said. "They had the potguts poisoned because they were eating somebody’s plants."
Wednesday, a man wearing a blue uniform and holding a square, black bucket plopped several pesticide tablets onto the ground at Foxpointe condominiums south of Redstone, Massey said.
"He said, ‘I’m poisoning the voles,’" Massey said about the small rodents. "You can’t poison them, because if you poison them its will get into the food chain."
Massey’s condo sits adjacent to the Swaner Ecocenter, a 1,200-acre nature preserve in the Snyderville Basin.
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"The tablets of poison were half the size of a granola bar and were five inches from a bicycle trail on the grass near Swaner," said Massey, who lives at Foxpointe.
Someone from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food collected nearly a dozen pellets Wednesday at Foxpointe, he said.
"Nine out of the 11 tablets were actually right on the grass where a kid could just reach down and pick it up," Massey said.
Chunks of pesticide were discovered at the condos on the surface, in holes "and readily accessible by hand," said Mike Zucker, an environmental scientist at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
"The company that made the application was targeting voles and the product is not labeled for voles," Zucker said. "This could be a misapplication of something."
The pesticide was applied by Five Star Pest Control, Zucker said, adding that the pesticide found at Kimball Junction is Maki paraffin block.
"It’s a really highly toxic rodenticide," said Peg Perreault, an environmental scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver. "If any organism were to get exposed to it, it would die."
Exterminators are "not supposed to put it in places where children or pets could get exposed," Perreault said.
"A dog could go eat this stuff or birds could get exposed to it, that would be the main concern with this product," she said, adding that the substance is not approved by the EPA to destroy voles. "The biggest concern with it being put down a vole hole is that a dog could get to it or a cat could get to it."
Massey suspected animals were poisoned at Kimball Junction when he saw a red-tailed hawk that had trouble flying last August.
"It was doing little head rolls. It was trying to take off but it couldn’t," he said.
Roughly seven samples have been taken from the scene, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food investigator Cody James said Friday.
"I did collect the open pellets that were easily found. There were over 40 pictures taken and a couple of affidavits," James said. "I need to talk with the applicator who actually put down the product and get his side of the story."
This week, James said he interviewed the manager of the Foxpointe homeowners association and the owner of the exterminating company.
"Once I’m done with the case it will go to a review committee and they will be the ones to determine whether there are actual violations," James said. "There are (state and federal laws) that are always protecting the environment from certain chemicals and pesticides."