UMich killing groundhogs using dry ice; humane society group objects

ANN ARBOR, MI – The University of Michigan is using dry ice to suffocate groundhogs on North Campus in Ann Arbor, and the Humane Society of Huron Valley is objecting to the practice.

“Stuffing dry ice down into a groundhog den is cruel,” said Tanya Hilgendorf, president and CEO of Humane Society of Huron Valley. “If effective, the animals die slowly of suffocation. It is not accepted or researched wildlife management practice.”

UM officials are defending the use of dry ice, saying other methods haven’t been effective due to human interference.

“We were utilizing traps, doing some catch and release, however our personnel encountered a large number of the traps that were apparently closed by individuals, or the animals were released by others after the animal consumed the bait and was trapped,” said UM Director of Community Relations Jim Kosteva.

Dry ice becomes carbon dioxide gas as it warms up, and the gas suffocates animals in their burrows. According to a report by USA TODAY, the rise in the use of dry ice comes as many big U.S. cities are experiencing an explosion in rat complaints from residents, with cities like Boston, New York and Chicago launching pilot projects in 2016.

Hilgendorf said the Humane Society has received a complaint regarding UM’s use of dry ice to control the groundhog population near Fire Station No. 5 on Beal Avenue off of Plymouth Road. The fire station is UM property and is provided by the university rent and maintenance free.

“Groundhogs are not a danger to people or pets,” Hilgendorf said. “They burrow underground to have their babies, sleep and hibernate. Just because they are there does not mean they are automatically causing a problem.”

Kosteva said the animals do pose a problem for the university.

“The primary problem with groundhogs is that they are capable of moving a lot of dirt in their digging and often times they can undermine the foundations of structures, porches or pavement and of course the burrows or holes can become trip hazards,” Kosteva said.

Hilgendorf believes the groundhogs aren’t a threat to people or other animals, and that if it is determined they should be evicted, it should be done in a humane fashion.

In addition, Hilgendorf said groundhogs do have benefits, including helping control insects without the use of pesticides. She hopes the university will consider new policies that demonstrate respect for animals in addressing problems.

“With any wildlife issue, prevention is key,” she said….

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