State Investigating Homeowner for Using Mothballs as Snake Deterrent; Use Caution With Pesticides, Official Urge

A homeowner in Mohave County faces a possible citation and fine for allegedly using mothballs outdoors as a snake deterrent.

The looming enforcement action for suspected misuse of pesticides is the only case that Jack Peterson, acting director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture, can recall that involved an average resident. Usually, says Peterson -- a 16-year employee of the agency -- the state targets companies or unlicensed pest-control operators for that sort of thing.

Though catching someone suspected of pesticide misuse is a "rare beast," the mothball case spurred the agency to issue a public advisory on Friday. (See below for a link.)

The agency received a complaint about the mothballs in mid-September by the accused offender's neighbor, Peterson says.

Peterson declined to give more details about the case, citing the pending investigation.

The mothball abuser could be fined $1,000 per violation under the law, but Peterson tells New Times that "in all likelihood" the fine in this case will be $500 or less.

That's a lot of dough for tossing a few mothballs outside, but the law isn't just there for grins: A pet or small child could find and eat the mothballs, which are highly toxic.

True, the offending homeowner was probably trying to protect against rattlesnakes, which can also hurt pets and people. However, scientists say that mothballs do not repel snakes.

For questions about the use of pesticides or to snitch on someone who's misusing them, call the Ag Department at (602) 542-0901.

Click here for a copy of the department's news release on pesticides.

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