Federal Way squirrel lover suspects poison in multiple deaths
June 19, 2008 · Updated 1:51 PM
Derek Warner, 41, loves the squirrels that live in his neighborhood like they are his pets.
For the 11 years that he’s lived near the corner of South 312th Street and 10th Avenue South, Warner has fed the squirrels peanuts from a big bucket in his garage.
“They’ll come on in the garage and eat them right out of the bucket,” he said.
Warner named one of the friendly critters Herman. Herman would come up to Warner and tug on his pants when he wanted a peanut, Warner said. The squirrels have free reign of Warner’s garage and home.
So it was especially alarming when they started turning up dead in his yard.
A few weeks ago, Warner noticed the first dead squirrel on his property. Since then, he’s found two more carcasses and an apparently sick squirrel.
Warner began talking to neighbors and learned that next door, five dead squirrels were found. The lady who lives across the street found two more.
What in the world is causing all these squirrels to die, Warner wondered.
His best guess is that someone is poisoning them.
“I don’t know if somebody thinks they’re pests or what,” he said.
Quite a few people do consider squirrels to be a nuisance, said Kim Chandler, an enforcement sergeant with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“They’re cute to one neighbor and an absolute pest to the next neighbor,” Chandler said.
“They don’t want them in their bird-feeders. They don’t want them in their attic,” he said. “They’re everywhere, they’re a pain in the neck. They do a lot of damage. They get in there and they chew everything. They’re very prolific. They just breed like crazy.”
Chandler, too, suspects that the squirrels in Warner’s neighborhood are dying at the hands of a disgruntled neighbor.
“It’s just too convenient to have that many die in one spot,” he said. “Somebody, somehow is behind it, but it’s hard to say who or what method.”
The Department of Fish and Wildlife frequently gets calls about dead squirrels that have been poisoned or shot with a pellet gun or BB gun.
“Of course, they run out and die in the neighbor’s yard,” Chandler said.
Eastern Gray Squirrels, the species that is most common in the Pacific Northwest, is not a protected species, Chandler said. Homeowners who find them to be a nuisance can kill them.
“If they’re going to kill them, they have to kill them humanely,” he said. “You can’t catch them in a trap and drown them or anything like that.”
Chandler suggests catching squirrels in a trap, then shooting them with a pellet gun. People can also put the squirrels in a bag and poison them with carbon dioxide by hooking the bag to the tailpipe of a car. It is not suggested to trap squirrels and release them somewhere else because then they just become someone else’s problem, he said.
“If you want to get rid of them, you’ve got to be willing to kill them,” Chandler said, adding that the best way to dispose of a dead squirrel is to bury it.
“That keeps the disease and the flies away and everything,” he said.
For those folks who do like squirrels, Chandler warns against feeding them.
“It’s wildlife. It’s not a dog or a cat, so it’s not cool,” he said.
“Number one, it doesn’t do them any good, and number two, it creates a health issue. You’ve got rats coming in and everything like that, and it teaches wildlife dependence on humans,” he said. “Don’t feed the wildlife. Just don’t do it.”
Contact Margo Hoffman: email@example.com or (253) 925-5565.