Update: Mystery of dead squirrels and unidentified substance in Richmond park has been resolved

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      Update (June 18):

      A mystery involving dead wildlife and a strange substance in a Richmond park appears to have been resolved.

      On June 9, RCMP responded to a report about ill and dead squirrels found in South Arm Park. Richmond Fire Rescue (RFR) obtained several samples from the affected area. One sample was tested and came back positive for the compound 1-Ocanethiol, which can be dangerous to people and animals.

      However, subsequent testing on all the remaining samples came back negative for the toxin.

      Then on June 15, Richmond RCMP and RFR received another report about an unknown substance found at the base of trees. Analysis of the substance did not find any toxins present.

      The joint investigation determined that the substance is residue from an infestation of the Red Turpentine Beetle.

      Richmond RCMP stated that the illness and death of the squirrels in the park appear to be unrelated to the residue on the trees.

      “The squirrels are believed to have ingested poison, however, there is no evidence indicating it was intentional,” Richmond RCMP stated in a news release.

      Original article (June 14):

      The discovery of ill and dead wildlife in Richmond has led to the location of a toxic substance present in a park—how and why it got there remains a mystery but in the meantime, police are asking the public to take precautions.

      Richmond RCMP stated in a news release that police received a report from a Richmond resident on June 9 about several sick and dead squirrels found in the area of South Arm Park.

      City of Richmond staff and Richmond Fire Rescue crews attended the area, cordoned off all potentially affected areas, and searched through the park.

      A toxic substance was found around a number of trees in the park and fire crews identified the substance as 1-Octanethiol, which is a compound that is used in the production of other chemicals and can be dangerous to people and animals if handled incorrectly. 

      An environmental cleanup crew was called in to remove the substance. Meanwhile, the park remains open to the public.

      Richmond RCMP Cpl. Ian Henderson stated in a news release that the origin of the toxin, and why it was there, remains under investigation.

      “We have not received any reports of people or family pets falling ill, nor have there been any other instances reported in other city parks at this time,” Henderson stated. “Richmond RCMP and the City of Richmond are putting out this public warning to ensure residents, particularly pet owners, be aware and keep an eye out for anything suspicious, including multiple dead or sick wildlife in a concentrated area.”

      According to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, symptoms from exposure to the compound can include eye, skin, nose, or throat irritation; drowsiness, weakness or exhaustion; cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin due to inadequate oxygen in the blood); increased respiration; nausea and vomiting; or headaches.

      Anyone who witnesses someone placing a substance at the base of trees in the park is asked to call the Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.