Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has a lot on his plate -- from GOP primary candidates being barred from the state's ballot boxes to..."rat explosions." According to a report by CNSNews, Cucinelli is worried that a new D.C. law governing how pest control handle vermin infestations may result in entire rodent “families” being relocated across the Potomac River into Virginia. Sound bizarre? Read on.
The rat problem has come to light due to the growing infestations around the Occupy D.C. encampents at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square. Something needs to be done with these rats, but what?
Cuccinelli said D.C.'s new rat law, the Wildlife Protection Act of 2010, is “crazier than fiction” because it requires vermin not be killed but rather captured, preferably in families, and transferred to a “wildlife rehabilitator.” To make matters "stickier," according to CNS, neither glue nor traps can be used in the apprehension of these rodents.
The relocation site for these rat colonies? Virginia.
Cuccinelli attempts to explain the madness to CNS:
The law does not allow pest control professionals “to kill the dang rats,” Cuccinelli told CNSNews.com. “They have to capture them--then capture them in families. [Not sure] how you’re going to figure that out with rats. And then you have to relocate them. That brings us to Virginia. Now, if you don’t relocate them about 25 miles away, according to experts, rodents will find their way back. Well, an easy way to solve that problem is to cross a river, and what’s on the other side of the river? Virginia.”
“So we have real concerns about this ridiculous--ridiculous!--law and we’ve been pretty genial about dealing with D.C. on it,” said Cuccinelli. “But when you see an article like the ‘Rats Occupy Occupy DC,’ it points up the problem that we’re going to have in Virginia because of that--and because D.C’s really outrageous--outrageous!--treatment of these varmints who, for those who don’t remember their history, carried things like bubonic plague. I mean, these are true vermin.”
Listen to Cuccinelli lament the bureaucratic measures he needs to adhere to when dealing with vermin outbreaks:
Brian Gottstein, communications director for Cuccinelli, told CNS that while there are some animals that are exempt from the new law, most are not. CNS explains:
While the law exempts “commensal rodents”-- varieties of which most people know (or have seen) as common rats or house mice--the rice rat and deer mouse, which are found in the District, are not defined as commensal and apparently are not exempt from the law. In addition, the new law expands the definition of wildlife and sets the rules for handling it to include raccoons, squirrels,
skunks, and other animals that can carry disease, such as rabies. The law applies to trained animal control officers, not to homeowners.
The law (Wildlife Protection Act of 2010.pdf) specifically says that wildlife “shall include any free-roaming wild animal, but shall not include: (A) Domestic animals; (B) Commensal rodents; (C) Invertebrates; and (D) Fish." Commensal rats include the House mouse (Mus musculus), the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), and the Roof rat (Rattus rattus).
“In addition to these particular rats and mice, raccoons, squirrels, skunks and other animals known to carry rabies, Lyme disease, and other diseases are not exempt from the law,” Gottstein said.
But the Occupy encampments may be bringing about other eco-related challenges. Gene Harrington, governmental affairs director for the National Pest Management Association, told CNS:
“I suspect once the Occupy D.C, protesters eventually leave there will be an overly aggressive squirrel population that has gotten too used to being fed by humans."
Is Occupy D.C. now affecting the balance of the eco-system?
"Under the Wildlife Protection Act, the only legal method pest and wildlife management professionals can use to manage these squirrels will be to live-trap them. Since the squirrels will associate humans with food there is really no place to relocate them where they would not eventually become a nuisance,” Harrington said.
He continued, “Basically, federal and local government regulations have tied legal District rodent control practices in knots and made the management of such a problem much more complicated than it should be.”
The complete report can be found at CNS.