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West town is still wild -- with critters
Homesteaders learn to deal with 'natives' of Eagle Mountain

EAGLE MOUNTAIN -- No one disputes that they were here first.

The deer mice, the voles, the deer, the skunks, the rabbits and the snakes that are currently terrorizing the residents of the new town of Eagle Mountain are all homesteaders in the west desert.It shouldn't be a big surprise to find they're having a little trouble adjusting to the influx of 1,000 or so newcomers.

"It's still country out here," said John Newman, city administrator and public works director for Eagle Mountain. "I don't think the city folk moving out here are used to the natural part of the environment."

Newman said he hasn't seen a huge problem yet but he does see a lot of snakes and rabbits and mice on his way to and fro.

"We have kangaroo mice, too, and the voles, they're indigenous to the area, I believe," he said.

"Seldom does a day go by that I don't see a half dozen snakes. And jack rabbits? Oh, yeah. I bet I saw 25-30 of them off the roadside on my way home the other night.

"Go out onto the farmland near here and the mice, they're just thick."

Residents are discovering some of the critters, including ones known as voles, in window wells, yards and basements.

Voles are 5-inch stocky rodents with plump, furry bodies and tiny ears that generally live in the eastern hemisphere. In the United States, they can befound in areas with lots of grassy fields.

They're currently tearing up freshly laid landscaping and digging tunnels on their way through the city ballfields, according to the dialogue generated on the town's Web page.

They leap out of residents' garbage cans.

Anjanette Lofgren has tried poison. Her neighbors have tried smoke bombs and some have suggested moth balls.

"Other than using our shovel, we have not had much luck getting rid of them," Lofgren said.

They ate the roots of the young trees Greg Kehl planted. He responded with chemical warfare against the "so-called Eagle Mountain Gopher" and has since collected more than 80 of the creatures.

"They seem to be closely related to lemmings," said Ruth Brandt. "They jump into our window wells and can't get out. They die, of course. Then, more mice jump in and get stuck, but before they die (this is the really gross part), they eat the ones that have died previously."

According to the World Book Encyclopedia, voles are, in fact, closely related to lemmings, and their population can swell to 20 times its number within a three- to seven-year span.

Newman hasn't run into the voles' trail of havoc yet but said he's been made aware of a couple of specific problems with mice in the community. He has ordered at least one construction company to haul away broken larger bits of concrete where rodents were harboring.

"I think that's what we need to do here, clean up and don't leave anything for them to use as a place to gather. There's a lot of them out here," he said. "And I suspect there will continue to be a lot."

He also suspects residents will become more agitated as the summer wears on and they start to discover rabbits and deer "enjoying" the gardens and lawns they've planted.

He has not heard of the mice and vole population creating a health problem as of yet.

Bonnie Snow, an inspector with the county health department, said residents should take a couple of precautions as they clean up droppings or dead rodents around their homes, including wearing gloves and a mask, followed by wet cleaning with a 10 percent bleach solution.

"The important thing is to clean it up wet because hanta virus is an airborne virus," she said.