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Spotlight Tip of the Week

Everyone enjoys the smell of the holidays: fresh-baked cookies, cinnamon and cloves, fresh-cut evergreens, skunk scent and fox urine. At least, those last two is what Christmas will smell like for anyone tempted to cut down a Christmas tree from the University of Idaho's Moscow campus.

Each year, the landscape team at U of I sprays about 100 trees on campus with a natural repellent of skunk scent and fox urine, as well as a sticking agent, to protect them from theft and destruction during the holiday season.

The repellent is fairly innocuous while outdoors in colder temperatures, but if brought into a warm room volatilizes quickly and emits a repugnant odor that will remain in the room and on furniture and carpeting for a long period of time. This material is completely natural and doesn't harm the trees or the environment and stays on the trees for about 4 weeks depending on weather.

Commercial Christmas trees are grown and marketed specifically for the holidays. Permits can also be taken out for cutting your own Christmas trees in our nearby forests. Stealing a landscape evergreen tree that is worth from $500 to $2500 dollars depending on the size, location and species of tree taken, is a huge loss for the university landscape.

Some signage is posted around campus to deter would-be thieves and inform the public of what is happening, but we do not sign most of the trees that are sprayed. We want to protect our landscape trees from needless destruction and both U of I Security and the Moscow Police Department are informed about this yearly protection program as well. Stealing or vandalizing an evergreen on campus can result in a felony charge.

Anyone with knowledge about campus tree thefts should notify Moscow Police immediately by calling 208-882-2677.

In order to minimize the potential fire hazards associated with holiday season decorations, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) has prepared the following information to guide your decorating plans. The list below is not an exhaustive list of concerns but summarizes a few of the major points. For the full list, visit the Holiday Decorations page on the EHS website.

General Decorations

  • Fire code requires all decorations to be non-combustible or treated with a U.L. listed fire retardant.
  • Use only U.L. listed, non-heat producing holiday lighting strands and follow manufacturer's recommendations on number of strands that may be plugged into each other.
  • Power strips with a fuse or circuit breaker are recommended if there are not enough outlets. Do not run electrical cords through doorways or under throw rugs or loose carpeting and never string cords across doorways or walkways.
  • All decorations must be kept away from exit signs, fire alarm devices (pull stations, smoke and heat detectors, etc.), fire extinguishers, and emergency and normal-use light fixtures. Exit signs and emergency lights must not be obstructed in any way.
  • Use of open flame (e.g., candles, luminaria, incense) is prohibited.

Holiday trees have additional concerns to address, such as height, location and lighting used. Again, for the full list, visit the Holiday Decorations page on the EHS website.

University of Idaho Emergency Response Team

The University of Idaho maintains an Emergency Response Team (UIERT) through the office of Environmental Health and Safety. This team’s purpose is to provide rapid response to incidents that threaten lives, property and/or the environment, including chemical, radiological and biohazardous incidents.

The UIERT, comprised of all members of EHS, is trained and equipped to handle most incidents that may occur on campus. All team members have completed, at a minimum, a 40-hour hazardous waste operations and emergency response (HAZWOPER) course as well as FEMA training in Incident Command and are ready to respond to small and major incidents. The UIERT maintains an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) which is fully stocked and ready to use at a moment’s notice.

The team responds to about 9 incidents of any size per year; these are mostly small incidents. The last major response was in June 2018 for a major oil spill at the dairy farm. A dump truck caught on overhead lines, pulling down two attached power poles which had 3 transformers on each and resulted in a spill of approximately 100 gallons total of mineral oil. The team worked long hours in the sun to capture the spilled oil from the pavement and dig up barrels of contaminated soil to protect the environment.

The team also has an agreement with the City of Moscow to respond to other incidents in the city as requested. This service is activated as needed by the Incident Commander acting for the City of Moscow and may be initiated by calling 911.The team continuously collaborates with the state of Idaho Fire Marshal, Moscow Volunteer Fire Department, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and Washington State University to share information, plan incident responses and participate in training.

Campus Contacts

Emergency Numbers for: Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls Campuses


Contact Us

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Dr
MS 2030 
Moscow, ID

Phone: 208-885-6524

Fax: 208-885-5969