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North Salt Lake residents, city winning vole war

Published August 16, 2012 11:03 am

North Salt Lake • USDA recommended poison oat feed.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

North Salt Lake • At the beginning of summer, residents of North Salt Lake Foxboro neighborhoods began a battle with voles that insisted on occupying their yards. Now, three months later, the residents, with the help of the city, appear to be winning.

It's a welcome relief to residents, who presented the issue to the city council in late June and then waited weeks with no word from officials. Residents were able to trap rodents on their own land, but the wetlands surrounding the neighborhood are on city and county land, and that was where many of the voles were living.

At the recommendation of the United States Department of Agriculture, four employees from the city of North Salt Lake and two employees from the USDA methodically moved through the wetlands area west of the Foxboro neighborhoods to deposit oat feed into the vole's borrows. The oat feed contains zinc phosphide that is poisonous to the voles and is a step to reduce the population of rodents in that part of the valley.

"[The oat feed] was the main recommendation from the USDA," said Rob Wood, director of North Salt Lake public works.

The oat feed has low secondary poisoning, meaning if a larger animal were to eat the rodent that has died from consuming the oat feed, the chances of the larger animal being poisoned are low.

The zinc phosphide in the oat feed that is left unconsumed by the voles is naturally broken down by air and water within five weeks, posing no long-term risk to the environment where it is placed.

The summer provides plenty of naturally occurring food for the voles in roots and plants in the wetlands, as well as in neighborhood yards. Ideally the city would have deposited the oat feed in the spring to preempt the population growth.

"The best times are in the early spring and late fall," Wood said. "We've done what we can at this point, but we will be back out around the end of October to do it again."

Wood said the application has already proven to be helpful and the city has been out collecting dead rodents. The collection will continue to help keep disease from spreading to other animals in the area.

"Not as many as we want, but some is better than none," he said.

The neighborhoods are seeing an improvement as well.

"I don't see nearly as many as I used to," said Rachel Christensen, resident of Foxboro South.

She started noticing a difference in numbers about three weeks after the application of the oat fee. Since then, there has been a huge decrease of sightings, she said.

Christensen has seen such a significant decrease in vole populations that she's confident in watering her lawn again. The rodent tunnels in the front yard are filling in and the lawn is turning green. The backyard is a different story, she said. They only watered it enough to keep it from completely dying in the effort of deterring the voles. She is continuing to work with her exterminator to get rid of the voles from the yard.

"We used to have six [traps], now we have 10," she said. "We decided to up the number of traps to see if we could put a dent in the number back there."

While the city is doing what they can to moderate the population of voles, they recommend residents still work with their exterminator.

"While we are having success in controlling the voles, we are not experts," Wood said. "Residents should continue working with professionals to take care of their yards."

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Vole wars

City applied poisonous oat feed to vole's burrows.

Numbers have decreased in the past six weeks.

Residents are noticing decrease in population.

City to apply oat feed again in October.