Denver Direct: Citizens Document Prairie Dog Poison on Playground Site at 26th Ave

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Citizens Document Prairie Dog Poison on Playground Site at 26th Ave

Ed. note: Thanks to Patricia Olson, Holly Hazard, and Ghia Speakman for allowing us to publish their excellent work in documenting this toxic danger, and to Dave Felice for forwarding it to us.

November 20, 2012

I, Patricia N. Olson, 2690 Hanover Street, Denver, CO 80238, 970-222-0881, on Monday, November 20th, 2012, make this voluntary statement to the Commissioner of Agriculture, State of Colorado. I have read and understand the contents of this statement. The statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief. I am at least 18 years of age and, if needed, would be willing and able to testify to information contained herein at court or hearing.
At approximately 11:00 a.m. on Monday, November 19, 2012, I met Holly Hazard, Senior Vice President, Programs & Innovations for the Humane Society of the United States and Ghia Speakman, staff member with wildlife expertise from the Prairie Dog Coalition, to further evaluate the proposed 26th Ave Park for a pilot project.
I am a veterinarian who lives near the proposed 26th Ave Park and have been concerned for over a year about the administration of aluminum phosphide fields in the Stapleton area – cautioning the developer, city council members, the mayor and many other agencies/groups about the potential risks for pets and children.
The proposed 26th Ave Park, to be developed by Forest City Enterprises, is to provide 2 acres for a children’s playground park and 23 acres for a natural park. Many Stapleton citizens believe that the natural part of the future park could be developed so that prairie dogs could co-exist with people. Wildlife scientists at the National Wildlife Research Center have already offered their help to contracept the prairie dogs so that the population would be manageable. Several other wildlife experts have offered their expertise on using natural grasses and other barriers to prevent migration of the animals into the playground or other undesired areas. The proposed pilot would allow prairie dogs and associated species to survive, allow children to play in the park safely, and offer children a rich educational experience about wildlife.

Many neighbors living near this proposed park site have been concerned for over a year because of the administration of aluminum phosphide to the land. They were concerned about the inhumane deaths of prairie dogs and also the potential risk to pets and children. A letter and photographs of children playing in the park were sent to Mayor Michael Hancock on 10/2/2012. As of today, I have received no response from the Mayor’s office.

Children playing in 26th Avenue Park – photographs taken 9/30/2012

Event on 11/19/2012
Thus, on November 19, 2012, Holly Hazard, Ghia Speakman and I were walking through the park to evaluate potential sites for the pilot project. Holly noticed a metal object in one of the prairie dog mounds. Initially, Ghia and Holly thought it likely a metal drinking bottle, or some other type of garbage. Holly decided to recover and identify the object.

Canister found on 11/19/2012 at the proposed 26th Ave Park site

Holly Hazard (left) recovering the can, along with Ghia Speakman (right) Patricia Olson (me) taking pictures

Recovered canister – Fumitoxin
White material noted inside the can and near can

Close-up of the can

I photograph Holly and Ghia for location
Holly also does GPS location
I walk directly north from the recovery site to get street intersection
26th Ave and Emporia

I tell Holly and Ghia to walk to my house (2690 Hanover Street) so that we can get the canister contained and so that they can clean up. We try to place the canister in a gallon zip-lock bag but it is too large so we cover the top and bottom with two gallon zip-lock bags and put this all inside a 30 gallon white kitchen garbage bag. Holly and Ghia wash their hands for several minutes.
We return to the park and find a second canister within 5 to 10 minutes.

Second canister found on 11/19/2012
We did not attempt to recover this one

Again, I photograph Holly and Ghia for landmarks

I walk directly north to get street intersection

Holly calls police and requests help. I return to my house and call Steve Blunt, Colorado Department of Agriculture. I clean up and leave to register my granddaughters for middle school.

Summary: Children are at-risk now and in the future (play ground area that is to be developed will be bounded by Fulton, 26th Ave, Florence and 25th Ave) to [toxic] waste that has not been cleaned up.