My column in the Times today (Sunday, Oct. 12) contains a letter from Kelly Adams of Clayton, California, complaining about two men from the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture, who she caught scattering poison to eradicate ground squirrels in the open space on the slopes of Mount Diablo on the other side of her back fence.
Needless to say Kelly was more than a little upset at this.
I responded to Kelly’s letter and told her how I felt about using poisons to kill animals, especially in the open spaces on Mount Diablo, an island sanctuary for native wildlife in the middle of Contra Costa County. You can read my Sunday (today) column here at http://www.contracostatimes.com/columns/ci_10700572?nclick_check=1
We’ll continue the discussion on poisoning ground squirrels in my Tuesday (Oct. 14) column in the Times. you can read it by going to our newspaper’s Web site on Tuesday (Oct. 14) at http://www.ContraCostaTimes.com and clicking on “Columns” at the top of the page and then scrolling down until you get to Gary Bogue and clicking on my name.
In the meantime, here are some additional comments about poisoning/eradicating ground squirrels for you to ponder.
Some thoughts on poisoning ground squirrels on Mount Diablo by Seth Adams, Director of Land Programs, Save Mount Diablo:
Our public open spaces are meant to protect wildlife. Even in private open spaces, poisoning ground squirrels is cruel and barbaric. But, some say, “it’s just a rodent.” No, they’re native wildlife and an environmental indicator of things that affect us all.
Throwing poison around affects people, too. Anybody claiming that poison is safe and nothing to worry about needs to explain why, if it’s so safe, applicators are told to wear gloves, respirators, long pants and sleeves, and protective eye wear. Claims that the poison doesn’t affect water is also bogus. Chemicals in the ground get wet, seep into ground water and are washed into creeks. We all live downstream of somewhere and while some poisons do eventually break down, often what they break down into is just as bad.
Despite the claims, poisoning does affect other wildlife.
It kills hawks and owls and other predators including people’s dogs and cats, especially if they eat the poisoned squirrels. So why does anyone do it? Ground squirrels like any other wildlife, can cause damage. But why poisons? One reason — it’s cheaper and easier than other methods, damn the consequences.
The problem is that most poisons and chemicals haven’t been tested for secondary or long-term effects, or synergistic ones as they combine with other chemicals — and most poisons are made up of many chemicals not just one. They’re like automatic weapons — we make one kind illegal, they change the model slightly and sell it under a new name. Same with chemicals and poisons — we outlaw one and another takes its place.
But we now know DDT killed millions of birds — and almost wiped out bald eagles, peregrine falcons and pelicans among many other rare species — just as we now know that the long term “safe” ground squirrel poisoning with arsenic at the Concord Naval Weapons Station has left large areas considered toxic and in need of millions of dollars of clean up.
Poisons don’t just go away — they linger and spread.
Ground squirrels are an important part of the food chain, and just as important, in our hot dry climate, many wildlife species including ones that are rare and endangered rely on ground squirrel burrows for survival.
In the future poisoning them will be considered as dumb as wiping out songbirds to decorate hats, dumping pollution into our drinking water, and killing wolves that keep other animal populations healthy by shooting them from airplanes.
It’s cruel, it’s short-sighted, and it affects us too. Find another way.
— Seth Adams
Thanks for the input. I couldn’t agree more.
I’m left with the image of a future golden eagle nest on Mount Diablo filled with two young golden eagle chicks, waiting for mom and dad golden eagle to return to the nest with a fresh ground squirrel to feed to them.
Only the parent eagles are off hunting in an area that has been poisoned in an attempt at ground squirrel “control” (AKA “eradication”).
Will the parent eagles be able to find a ground squirrel to feed their hungry chicks? I hope so. And I hope it isn’t poisoned …
We have to find a better way. /Gary