October 12, 2008
Gary Bogue: Poisoning Ground Squirrels — is It Right?
By Gary Bogue
It definitely feels like fall.Dear Gary:
I moved to beautiful Dana Hills, in Clayton, 15 years ago, in order to be next to open space at the base of our majestic Mount Diablo. I treasure the bountiful flora, fauna and assorted beasts here, and I cherish the opportunity for harmonious co-existence, side-by-side, with Nature.
I'd like to think most people who reside here have a similar appreciation and respect for wildlife. We're blessed with a wide range of wild birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Monday morning, I walked outside to my patio for some fresh air and to get my daily fix in spotting the wild turkey flocks that forage in the fields and lower stream below. Eleven wild turkeys were out strutting their stuff and pecking for food.
Suddenly, the peace was interrupted by a couple of men driving all-terrain vehicles with buckets in tow. They noisily traversed the open space from the creek bed, to the neighborhood kiddy playground, to the property lines of myself and my neighbors. They were blanketing the area with something from their buckets -- scattering and tossing handfuls of crystals resembling blue aquarium rock (or candy-blue Chiclets).
When they approached my property and scattered the substance within 15 feet of me and my dogs, I cried out "Hey, what are you doing?"
One of them responded, "Ground squirrel eradication."
I asked, "You're killing them?" He replied, "Yes." My heart sank. I told him I have dogs here, and there are domestic cats and kids and, of course, wild turkeys out there -- they could be poisoned, too.
The man said that poisoning of pets, kids or other animals would be unlikely. He claimed it was my homeowners association that requested eradication of the ground squirrels. As he reached a gloved hand into his bucket and scattered another handful of poison at the base of a tree, I watched as the naive turkeys followed the men's beckoning blue trails of possible nourishment and pecked at the ground for a sampling. I was in tears.
I called Fish and Game to file a complaint and inquiry. The warden was pleasant and sympathetic; she told me if the "eradicators" were from the Department of Agriculture (she'd look into it), the particular poison they use is targeted to kill only the ground squirrels and would not be a danger to other creatures. She did say they shouldn't be placing poison in or near water sources.
I don't understand why eradication of ground squirrels is necessary in this particular belt of open space. I will continue to research who authorized this and their reasons, but I'd also like to see some shared concern/response to the poison scattering so near creeks, a stream, a play area and residential property. Isn't this a violation of SOME ordinance?
Finally, I'd like to know how a poison can "know" to kill only ground squirrels (if such should even be condoned) without also affecting (poisoning) other mammals, amphibians and birds?
Kelly Adams, Clayton
I don't like poisons -- too many risks and side effects.
Poisons should definitely not be "scattered" near residential areas where dogs, cats, kids (and adults!) might find them. They shouldn't be "scattered" anywhere. That increases the risk of poisoning non-target species like those turkeys. Ground squirrels are also an important food source for predators on the mountain (eagles, hawks, owls, coyotes, bobcats, badgers). What if they eat a poisoned squirrel?
I don't have enough space to complete my answer today, so this will continue in Tuesday's column. In the meantime, you can find more comments about this in my blog at the address below.
Keep me updated on your research. We'll return to this conversation Tuesday.
Find more Gary in his blog at www.ibabuzz.com/garybogue or write Gary, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099; old columns at ContraCostaTimes.com, click on Columns; e-mail email@example.com.
Originally published by Gary Bogue, Contra Costa Times.
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