[Tweeters] Where'd all the urban yard rats go?

Kelly McAllister mcallisters4 at comcast.net
Thu Mar 19 18:47:10 PDT 2009

Well, having worked for WDFW for over 26 years, I can say, with some confidence, that a surreptitious eradication effort is not happening. The recent efforts to eradicate Nutria from certain local areas was well publicized and any other eradication effort would be as well, even if it did involve something much cuter than a Nutria (although the cuteness factor might cause the agency to simply steer clear of such an effort).

During my last couple of years as a District Wildlife Biologist, I got quite interested in sick Eastern Gray Squirrels, mainly because it was being reported fairly frequently but also because I was concerned it might be transmissable to Western Gray Squirrels. There are at least to diseases that produce encephalitic conditions and similar symptoms, loss of balance, lethargy. The squirrels fall out of trees, tip over, that kind of thing. Then they die. One of the diseases that was diagnosed in squirrels from Thurston County was Yersinosis, or pseudo tuberculosis. The other is the round worm, Baylisascaris. To me, it seems possible that one of these diseases may be having severe consequences, in local areas, particularly if other stressors are affecting the condition of the squirrels, perhaps food shortage.

Interesting to hear about this phenomenon in the Bellevue/Eastgate area. The squirrels here in Olympia appear healthy and prolific.

I can't claim to know anything about the requirements of Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators when it comes to trapped Mountain Beavers that are perceived as a nuisance. It wouldn't surprise me if euthanasia was required.

Kelly McAllister
Olympia, Washington
----- Original Message -----
From: Pterodroma at aol.com
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 9:41 AM
Subject: [Tweeters] Where'd all the urban yard rats go?

After years and years of being plagued by 'eastern' gray squirrels (aka "urban yard rats"), for the past 2 or 3 years now, they ALL seem to have disappeared. Good news for some, bad news for others I suppose, you decide. Good news here, the Douglas Squirrels have moved in where they have been an extreme rarity in the past and are now a most welcome and cheerful regular. After the eastern gray squirrel seemed to be everywhere a few years ago, it's been quite awhile now since I have seen even a dead one (roadkill) in the street much less a live one. I'm sure some neighborhoods must still have them and maybe in obnoxious abundance. The only ones I have actually seen in this Bellevue Eastgate neighborhood now for at least two, maybe three years, and then very seldom, have been in every single case, ones that appear very sickly. They have all appeared disheveled, weak, and just amble through in slow motion completely unaware of my presence, even walking over my foot once while I was quietly sitting on the back porch, like they are in some sort of torpid daze.

My question then is, and I almost hate to ask at the risk of raising heated controversy (like the Canada Goose situation in the recent past), is or has the state and WDFW been engaged in a quiet lethal eradication program targeting the non-native introduced eastern gray squirrel? Just curious.

Oh, and while I'm asking, one other question stemming from something I heard at the recent Seattle Flower & Garden Show; aplodontia (aka Mountain Beaver). Someone there told me that the State (WDFW) has now mandated that all Mountain Beavers should they be captured alive, (e.g. trapping) are to be KILLED and NOT TRANSPORTED FOR RELEASE somewhere else. Is that true? If so, I understand the reasons but I can't seem to find any verification about such a policy. I am certainly guilty of the latter over the years but in all cases of release it was done so with careful thought and search for areas deemed suitable AND well removed from local private property (don't want to drop my problem onto someone else) AND new growth forest tracts where their destructive impacts are often most severe.

Richard Rowlett
Bellevue (Eastgate), WA

Feeling the pinch at the grocery store? Make dinner for $10 or less.


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