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Vole infestation has North Salt Lake residents concerned

Published: Thursday, June 21 2012 6:36 p.m. MDT

Rachel Christensen holds up a trapped vole at her home in Foxboro North development in North Salt Lake Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The neighborhood is being overrun with voles, a type of meadow mouse.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

NORTH SALT LAKE — They can be seen running across sidewalks, fields and yards.

The critters may be small, about 3 inches long, but they are causing big problems for residents of the Foxboro North development in North Salt Lake.

They are dealing with voles, an infestation of rodents, and they want the city and the state to pay to get rid of them.

Residents say the critters have taken over a section of the Legacy Parkway Trail and their neighborhood, which is next to the trail. The situation is so bad that people living along the trail say they catch five to 10 voles a day.

Voles are small rodents that resemble stocky mice or rats. They like to build tunnels beneath the grass and plants and can cause lots of damage. A section of a sidewalk is sinking because there are so many vole tunnels beneath it, and gardens have been ravaged.

“I mean, it’s just, my yard’s destroyed,” said an exasperated Rachel Christensen. “I put thousands of dollars into my yard and stuff, and what do I have to show for it now?

Not only is there property damage, residents are concerned about health consequences as well.

“I have concerns if there’s rotting flesh on an animal out baking in the sun,” resident Aaron Rennaker said. “Just walking my dog or with my child, I know there can be disease.”

Rennaker has been organizing frustrated homeowners in calling for action from the city and the state. According to Rennaker, action is required from both levels because of where the population of voles seems to be situated.

Some of the voles appear to call the land west of the Legacy trail home, which Rennaker said is managed by the Utah Department of Transportation. Others dwell east of the trail on public land controlled by the city.

The voles, neighbors said, seemed to migrate into the Foxboro development. “If everyone doesn’t collaborate and take care of it on their property, then I don’t believe it’s going to be resolved,” Rennaker said.

Neighbors have enlisted the help of an exterminator while they wait for additional aid.

“It’s summertime and we can’t even let our kids go out and play,” Debby Piquet said. She said she was concerned the problem will linger into the upcoming school year.

“It’s scary because Foxboro’s school is starting in July and that’s a month away from now,” she said. “So our kids are going to be going to school playing with mice.”

City officials are trying to ease fears over the health risk. Mayor Len Arave cited 2010 research from Utah State University which stated: “Fortunately, voles pose no major public health problems because of infrequent contact with humans. However, they can harbor disease organisms such as plague and tularemia.”

The document recommended the use of protective clothing when handling voles.

Arave also warned about the use of pesticides, alluding to the February 2010 tragedy in Layton where a large number of Fumitoxin pellets were deployed to kill voles and ultimately led to the deaths of 4-year-old Rebecca and 15-month-old Rachel Toone.

“As far as individual households, they will have to deal with it on their own, hopefully in a responsible way,” Arave said. “The chemicals are very dangerous that you treat these with.”

Arave said the city would send crews to public property and parks in the area to assess the problem and see what can be done to remedy the situation, and the city he said the city is willing to take action on its own property.

UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo said the department is also willing to work with the city and homeowners and look further into the problem.

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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