The village is no place for rat poison

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

You wouldn’t use DDT to kill mosquitoes around your patio. You wouldn’t consider Agent Orange to get rid of dandelions in your backyard. So, why on earth would anyone resort to using uncut rat poison to control mice, or anything else, around their house?

OK, so the standard argument against using potent and toxic chemicals to take care of the minor inconveniences of floral and faunal pests around our homes in the mountains is that they eventually seep into the water table, spread throughout the world and in due course make their ways back to us, albeit in diluted and altered forms, and we end up possibly contracting some form of cancer that might kill us sometime in the next 30 or 40 years — or maybe never: We might just end up with migraines or unexplained skin growths or symptoms that make us feel out of kilter once in a while.

Big deal. Fat chance. I’ll take the risk. And, with that, we head out spreading and spraying, to rid our lives of the scourges that haunt us. Dandelions, mosquitoes and mice — oh my!

My point, however, is actually to make you think very hard about this and not reinforce common lines of thought. To do this I have to give you a real-world, concrete example that will, hopefully, make you see this in a much more powerful light.

A dog was killed recently by rat poison. It was a Snowmass Village dog, a pet of a longtime Snowmass Village family. He was friendly, loyal and loving and gave them everything he had. The poisoning was confirmed by a toxicology test. The pet got into the poison within a block of his home in a busy neighborhood where dozens of pets and children play. Without the necessity of more details, it is a story every bit as heartbreaking as you are imagining.

I don’t want you to know who the family is or where they live, because that might be enough for the person who laid down the poison to figure out that they killed a dog, and my aim is not to single anyone out or make them feel awful. There is no indication that the rat poison was directed at the dog. For peace and sanity and continued faith in the decency of mankind, please join me and consider this an accident.

We have to seize the opportunity for education, not scorn or anger. The greatest takeaway from this incident is that there is no place for rat poison in a neighborhood, not even one in the mountains and bordered by nature.

If you love living close to wilderness, as we all do here in the village, you have to accept certain things that unavoidably go along with that. We get heavy snowfalls. We have dangerous thunderstorms. An elk might nibble on your shrubs during the night. We have rodents and critters in our yards and kitchens.

There are sensible ways to deal with most of it. The rest you have to accept. You don’t have to accept mice in your house, but you have to get rid of them sensibly. Use a trap. They aren’t foolproof, but eventuallythey will get the job done. They are sometimes messy, but since it doesn’t indiscriminately eradicate all life that comes into contact with it, that’s a small price to pay. Washing your hands with soap after emptying one will permanently remove all the germs and grit.

Now, the coldest-hearted among you might say that if the owner had controlled his pet properly, none of this would have happened. And that is not an acceptable response. Pets cannot possibly be controlled at all times, period. Neither can children. Neither can elk, deer, coyotes, foxes, birds or any other local wild animal that might venture the way of your house. On the other hand, rat poison? Yes, that can be controlled. Is it your responsibility? Absolutely. As a decent neighbor, friend and human being, it is. Don’t use it!

When a family pet dies, it is a very sad story unless it happens to be your family’s pet. Then it is a devastating tragedy that takes a lot of grieving and sadness to recover from. Unfortunately, the sad story, as we read it here, has already been written for one Snowmass Village family — our friends and neighbors. My hope is that we all do what we can to prevent this from being your tragedy someday.

Roger Marolt loves this town and accepts all the rodents and critters as a cost of doing living. Contact him at


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