By Jayson Jacoby
and Terri Harber
Baker County's hired mosquito killer left town about the time a fresh crop of the blood-sucking pests flew in.
But relief from the swatting and scratching is at hand.
The Baker Valley Vector Control District's board of directors met Tuesday and agreed to hire Doug Boone, a local pest control contractor, to spray pesticide in several places this week, said Connie Colton, whose husband, Gordon, is the board's longtime chairman.
The Vector District covers about 200,000 acres and includes much of Baker, Bowen and Keating valleys, including Baker City.
Jim Lunders, who had worked as the District's manager since April 2001, accepted a similar job in Medford earlier this summer, Connie Colton said.
Lunders agreed, though, to stay on in Baker County until the mosquito season ended.
His last day was Sept. 6.
But with warm weather persisting, the mosquitoes weren't finished.
Which fact was confirmed by a dozen or so calls the District has received recently from residents complaining about swarms of mosquitoes, Colton said.
Rick Rambo was at the Baker Sports Complex during the weekend, and he noticed an active and plentiful mosquito population.
"The fields were just full of mosquitoes," he said Tuesday while enjoying mild sunshine around noon at Geiser-Pollman Park.
Rambo also said the insects were most noticeable near irrigated fields adjacent to the Sports Complex.
Lunders' absence created a quandary for the District because he was the only employee licensed to apply pesticides, Colton said.
Other employees could work under his license, but that option ended when Lunders left for Medford.
To fill the void, the board turned to Boone, who like Lunders is licensed to apply pesticides, Colton said.
Boone said he plans to spray this week at the Sports Complex, Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium BHS practice fields, and other school practice fields.
Colton also said Boone will set up signs at sprayed areas to alert people who might be affected by pesticides.
Baker City doesn't spray its parks for insects because the city is within the Vector Control District, said Michelle Owen, the city's public works director.
Colton said she hopes this week's chilly temperatures - the low at the airport today was 25 - will do in the mosquito hordes.
Warmer weather is forecast for the next week, though, with no sub-freezing mornings and highs rebounding into the 80s.
Baker County has not had any confirmed cases this year of West Nile virus.
Malheur County has been the most active of Oregon's 36 counties, with one bird and 55 mosquito groups testing positive for the illness.
Just two human cases of the virus have been confirmed this year in Oregon - one in Malheur County, the other in Coos County, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
The situation has been much different in other parts of the U.S., particularly Texas.
There have been almost 2,000 cases, and 87 fatalities, nationwide as of Sept. 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials recommend removing old tires and other objects that can hold water and harbor mosquitoes.
Remove objects such as old tires or wading pools that can collect water and attract mosquitoes.
Other ways to avoid bites: stay indoors at dusk or dawn, and when outside wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and use an insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.
Most people don't become sick as a result of bites by West Nile-infected mosquitoes. Those who do typically have a fever, headache and muscle weakness. There is potential for more serious consequences, such as encephalitis or meningitis, and even death.
For details about mosquito control, call 541-523-1151.