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Rodent pellets cause stir near Bomb Shelter

By Daily Bruin Staff

April 19, 2001 9:00 p.m.

  EDWARD LIN/Daily Bruin Pest control technicians sift
through shrubbery around the Bomb Shelter by hand and with vacuums
to recover rat poison pellets

By Kevin Lee
Daily Bruin Contributor

Poison intended to kill rats near the Bomb Shelter eatery has
allegedly killed at least one squirrel and for a short while may
have posed a threat to humans.

After several members of the UCLA community identified the
potential hazard earlier this week, the Associated Students of UCLA
responded swiftly by ordering a cleanup of the affected area.

Ecolab, a pest-control company, recently administered the
pellets at the request of ASUCLA.

ASUCLA Executive Director Patricia Eastman said the company was
called out to handle “a minor rodent problem.” that was
caused by ongoing construction near the Bomb Shelter.

Eastman said the company stored the poison in rat-trap
“houses” that were somehow knocked over, dispersing the
pellets throughout the bushes near the Bomb Shelter.

“I noticed the pellets dispersed about the shrubbery on
Tuesday,” said Jonathan Katz, a graduate student and head of
the Mathematics and Physical Sciences Council of the Graduate
Students Association.

Early in the week, when ASUCLA discovered the scattered pellets,
officials immediately contacted Ecolab to have them removed.

When a single pellet was still found in the area after the first
cleanup, ASUCLA again called Ecolab to do a second cleaning which
lasted for several hours Thursday, Eastman said.

Six vans and several Ecolab specialists cleaned up the area by
hand and with high-powered vacuums in an attempt to remove any
remaining pellets.

The Ecolab technicians at the scene declined to comment on the
nature of their work, saying only that they were cleaning leaves.
Officials at Ecolab did not return phone calls Thursday.

Paula Drake, a squirrel rescue and rehabilitation specialist,
said at least one squirrel may have died as a result of ingesting
the blue-green rat poison pellets that were dispersed around the
Bomb Shelter.

Drake said she performed a necropsy ““ a procedure similar
to a human autopsy ““ on the dead squirrel and found that the
gastrointestinal tract of the squirrel was filled with a blue
substance similar in color to that of the rat poison pellets.

Drake said she plans to send the corpse to a pathologist who
will perform a biopsy to determine the specific substance that
killed the squirrel. Drake said she is not convinced that Ecolab
used houses to store the pellets, due to the random scattering of
the poison.

“Regardless of whether they did use houses or not, small
animals other than rats, such as birds or squirrels, can still gain
access to the houses and die from the poison,” she said,
adding that the aroma of the pellets attracts the squirrels.

Blood stains on the tail and anus of the dead squirrel are
possible evidence of bromadiolone (rat poison) ingestion, according
to Drake.

This anticoagulant agent causes excessive bleeding in the victim
until it dies, said Dr. Michael Rosove, a clinical professor of
medicine at the UCLA Medical School.

The rat poison is also dangerous when ingested by humans, Rosove
said.

Both Drake and Katz question whether the pellets were originally
enclosed in containers as is normally the procedure with
distributing poison. Katz said he expected warning signs to be
placed.

“There were no signs in the area indicating the use of
poison and there seemed to be no mechanism in place to limit
exposure to non-rats,” Katz said.

But Robert Donley, deputy director of the Los Angeles Country
Environmental Protection Bureau said warning signs are only needed
in some cases.

According to the California Food and Agricultural code,
pesticide applications on public property where public exposure is
foreseeable must be accompanied by warning signs.

With reports from Michael Falcone and Andy Shah, Daily Bruin
Senior Staff.

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