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Debate rages about use of squirrel-detonating Rodenator in Spokane, Wash.

April 15, 2009 | 12:24 pm


"For you animal rights activists and lovers out there, I want you to try this on for size," conservative talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh said on a recent broadcast. "This is a story from Spokane, Wash. They're having a problem with too many ground squirrels at the Finch Arboretum. I've never seen this word.  A-r-b-o-r-e-t-u-m, what the hell is an arboretum?"

Limbaugh went on to discuss the Spokane, Wash., Parks and Recreation department's use of a machine called the Rodenator Pro to "detonate" squirrels it says are causing extensive damage to the arboretum, which has about 2,000 ornamental trees and shrubs. But while Limbaugh doesn't seem to mind the tactic, many others are crying foul. The Associated Press reports:

[Spokane Humane Society] Executive Director Dave Richardson sent a letter to the Spokane City Council, saying the detonations are a temporary and unethical response to a problem that could be solved by limiting the animals food supply.

The parks department said an overpopulation of squirrels is causing destruction at the arboretum, and blowing them up is the best way to deal with the problem.

"We didn’t take care of the issue well enough over the last couple years, and it just allowed [the squirrels] to multiply," Parks and Recreation department director Barry Russell told the Spokesman Review. "The coyotes just can’t keep up."

Russell emphasized that the Rodenator method is "the quickest way" for the animals to die.  Previous attempts by the department to control the squirrel population have included pumping poisonous gas into the burrows and even lining the burrows with chewing gum it hoped would destroy the squirrels' stomachs and bring about their deaths, spokeswoman Nancy Goodspeed told the Spokesman Review.

The Rodenator Pro pumps a mixture of 97% oxygen and 3% propane into squirrels' burrows, then sends an electric spark that causes an explosion that kills the rodents and collapses the tunnels.  Its manufacturer, Idaho-based Meyer Industries, says the system is both humane and environmentally friendly.

In addition to squirrels and gophers, Rodenator is used to kill voles, moles, prairie dogs, rabbits, armadillos, marmots, badgers, foxes and coyotes.  The best part of the Rodenator, according to its maker?  "The nice thing ... is that you never have to handle or see the dead animal after the process is completed," reads a statement on the Rodenator website.

"... The saber-toothed gopher is in deep trouble, because this is war," proclaims a video on its website.  "Rodenator to the rescue!" 

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Doug McKay has the task of triggering the ignition switch to blast a squirrel hole in Finch Arboretum in Spokane, Wash.  Credit: Jesse Tinsley  / Associated Press

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