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Capitol lawn’s steel mole traps garner warning

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 3, 2010

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.

The 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, said Steve Valandra, a department spokesman. “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, which typically kill a couple dozen moles as they are moved around the grounds, based on some sign of the critters.

That stopped Tuesday, after state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, got a call from a constituent who spotted a trap near a trail by the old state Conservatory. Kretz checked out the traps on Monday and was certain they were banned by the 2000 initiative.

“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.”

He knows the law has not been amended because he’s tried unsuccessfully to get some exemptions for landowners in remote areas, and he knew which agency to call.

Craig Bartlett, a spokesman for Fish and Wildlife, said it seems odd the GA 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 this like any first-time offense: 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.

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 traps.

But they’ve rejected a tactic the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department employed briefly against ground squirrels at Finch Arboretum: pumping propane into the holes and igniting it.

“We’re not thinking about using that,” he said of the Rodenator Pro. “We heard it didn’t work well anyway. The ground squirrels came back.”



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