OLYMPIA – A state agency has used illegal traps to kill moles around the Capitol and the governor’s mansion for about a decade, ever since voters banned them with an initiative.
That surprised another state agency, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which enforces the law against “body-gripping” traps. On Tuesday, it issued a warning to the General Administration Department, the same thing it would do to a homeowner found using the traps.
General Administration has used the spring-loaded steel traps for years in the late winter to kill moles, which do significant damage on the Capitol grounds, Steve Valandra, a department spokesman said: “We want to get to the moles before they start breeding.”
The department thought the traps had been exempted from the law, Valandra said. It has seven of the traps, and typically kills a couple dozen moles as the traps are moved around the grounds, based on some sign of the critters.
That stopped Tuesday, after Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, got a call from a constituent who spotted a trap near a walking trail by the old state Conservatory. He checked out the traps on Monday, and was convinced they were banned by the 2000 initiative, which isn’t popular in his northeastern Washington district.
“A private citizen would be in trouble for using these traps,” Kretz said, adding there was a safety concern. “I was worried about a kid coming along and putting their hand in there.”
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He’s familiar with the fact the law has not been amended, because he’s
tried unsuccessfully to get some exemptions for landowners in remote
areas, and knew which agency to call.
Craig Bartlett, a spokesman for Fish and Wildlife, said it seems odd General Administration was using the traps 10 years after they’d been outlawed. But even though the two agencies are just across the street from each other, Fish and Wildlife is treating General Administration like anyone else reported using the trap the first time: a warning, and an investigation.
No private citizen has received more than a warning for using this particular type of trap, Bartlett said, although a few commercial exterminators have been cited for using them because the traps are so effective they give a company unfair advantage.
Valandra agreed they were effective, but now General Administration will have to look at other ways to kill the moles. They’ve applied for a permit for other types of traps that are legal.
But they’ve rejected a tactic the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department employed briefly against ground squirrels at the Arboretum: pumping propane into the holes and igniting it.
“We’re not thinking about using that,” he said. “We heard it didn’t work well anyway. The ground squirrels came back.”