Kuna city officials say they are up to their eyeballs in slimy salamanders that are choking the town's sewer system.
For the second spring in a row, the amphibians are being sucked into a sewage pump and ground up. Several times a week, Kuna Wastewater Superintendent Brent Grover must shut down the pump to clean it out.Grover discovered the salamanders a year ago when he was cleaning out a clogged sewer pump. He thought the sliced and diced hunks of animal flesh might be frogs or ducks, until he saw a 6-inch-long lizardlike creature crawl from a pipe into the light of day.
"I got it out, and let it go," Grover said. "I didn't even know what it was."
The plague of salamanders - mudpuppies and tiger salamanders - only went on through irrigation season. When the pump was shut off for the season, the homely creatures were safe for the winter.
A year later, the salamanders are squirming back bigger than ever, he said.
"There are big ones in there. One day they'll walk out onto the land and eat us," Grover said.
Actually, salamanders are harmless to humans.
Grover said they may have been pets somebody flushed down the toilet before they started hatching a new generation.
Ideas for dealing with Kuna's problem include rigging a new filtering system for the pump that would catch the salamanders or getting a larger filter for about $1,500 that wouldn't have to be cleaned often.
Until a better plan is devised, a basket-type filter is being used.
The last few weeks of irrigating last summer was a nightmare, he said. When the pump kept clogging, he decided to call the Department of Fish and Game.
"After they got through laughing, they said they couldn't give us any help," Grover said.
The Kuna City Council may turn its horror story into a windfall. Councilman Mike Shaul said salamanders sell for about $3 a pound as bait for catfish in commercial fishing.
Mayor Greg Nelson, a veterinarian, said, "From our standpoint, just getting rid of them would be enough of a bonus for us."