Joann Purcell, a resident of the senior center development known as Presbyterian Homes in Lehigh is upset because she believes someone is putting out rat poison that is killing squirrels, ducks and cats.
"I don't understand why someone would do that around here," she said sadly, adding she is an animal lover, and has thrown bread out to the ducks to eat not far from her home.
The problem has been noted by the person who operates Presbyterian Homes, too. Rafael Chala, the administrator of Presbyterian Homes at 1301 Woodward Court in Lehigh, sent out letters to all residents in the senior community noting that in recent weeks, "several squirrels and ducks have manifested 'sick-like' symptoms that may be attributed to the ingestion of poison."
Chala said he has received several complaints from residents regarding a suspicious substance that has been spread around trees in the court yards.
In the letter to residents, he said, "Please refrain from putting down poison or other substances intended to ward off animals. If you come across a sick animal, please do not touch it and notify the office immediately.
"Please keep in mind that abusing or killing animals is punishable by state and federal lows," Chala wrote.
Purcell said she and other residents have often enjoyed watching the squirrels in the courtyard adjoin their homes in the section in which she lives.
"I would sit outside near that big oak tree and watch the squirrels run around," but no more, because someone's killing them with poison them with rat killer," Purcell said.
She has plenty of photographs in her camera she says shows the substance believed to be poison that she and a friend have spotted around her part of the community.
"It's just cruel. It's just like domestic violence. Why would people kill innocent little creatures? The cats that may be poisoned are outside and they control the mice in the area and many residents would feed them outside their backdoors," she said.
"The poison is dangerous also because grandchildren often visit us at the complex and if they were to get that on their clothes or in their mouths, it would be terrible," she said.
"The cats can get it on their paws and if they clean their paws, the poison will kill them."
The act of killing ducks, squirrels, cats and other animals is against the law and Zachary Zampella sent an email to Rafael Chala, who runs Presbyterian Homes, saying that the penalty for exposing poison can be is a crime as well. And there are strong penalties for anyone found guilty of committing such a crime.
"Whoever leaves or deposits any poison or any substance containing poison, in any common street, alley, lane, or thoroughfare of any kind, or in any yard or enclosure other than the yard or enclosure occupied or owned by such person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in Statute 775.082 or Statue 775.083," his email stated. A copy of the email was also distributed throughout the community, Purcell said.
"It's a slaughter of wildlife when you see squirrels, ducks, and various birds on the endangered species, found dead.
Purcell said she enjoys living in the Presbyterian Home community and thanks the management for looking into the situation.
"It's a threat to all tenants of Presbyterian Home. Rain spreading poison can carry it into areas where people get it on their shoes, pets in their paws and in their feet and even into their owners' apartments.
"I contacted friends living in the north area of the complex and they also have witnessed the same, seeing many dead found in the canal," she said.
"It's just cruel and I hope they find out who is doing it," she said. "All I can say is that person is not a happy person because good people don't put poison out to kill animals and they don't think of what can happen if it is eaten by pets or comes in contact with the young children who visit their grandparents here," Purcell said.
She said she looks for the poison when she is walking outside with her pepper spray which she would use for protection.
And there are lots of photos on her camera of dead animals that she and others have found. Some of the photos are gruesome.
Two weeks ago, Purcell said she found three animals dead in her courtyard in one day.
"People here are upset about this and I am glad that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been made aware of what is going on here.
"We did have lovely birds and squirrels living among us until April 3 when I and my friend who also lives here found a dead squirrel following with discoveries of other dead squirrels and ducks.
"I personally picked up one bleeding. It was a painful inhumane death and there have been many more on people's door steps over the last couple of weeks," Purcell said.
"Whoever is putting the poison down is a threat to everyone living here," Purcell said.