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SPOKANE, Wash. - The Finch Arboretum is being overrun by ground squirrels, and Spokane Parks and Recreation is bringing in some special artillery.
The agency is using a special machine called the Rodenator Pro to detonate some of the estimated 100 to 150 squirrels tearing up the grounds.
The Rodenator Pro pumps propane and oxygen into the tunnels of squirrels, then sends an electric spark that causes an explosion. The shock waves kill the squirrels and collapse their tunnels - but in a humane way, the agency said.
Spokanimal, which is the local animal shelter and Humane Society chapter, was caught by surprise by Monday's announcement.
"You're kidding," Director Gail Mackie said when she learned the news. "That borders on cruelty."
Mackie said she would investigate the practice.
The parks department is warning area residents that it plans to blast squirrels all week, and to not be alarmed by noises that sound like gun shots. Parks officials said police have already been called to the arboretum by people who heard the explosions.
Timing is crucial. Parks officials said they want to detonate their prey before the animals start reproducing.
Parks officials said ground squirrels have been a minor problem for years, but their population is, well, exploding.
The squirrels dig tunnels and holes that people can trip on or fall into, the agency said. They eat new tree roots, can spread disease and are spreading to neighboring yards.
Gas bombs were tried in the past, but were not effective, the agency said.
Enter the Rodenator, a product whose workings have been captured on numerous YouTube videos. The company is based in Midvale, Idaho, and promises on its Web site that its product is effective against the "saber-toothed gopher."