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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Publisher’s Notebook:

• Poison Peril in One of Malibu’s Parks•

BY ANNE SOBLE

Someone has taken it upon themself to act as the secret exterminator of gophers in Trancas Park. Whoever this is puts poisoned gopher bait on the park grounds. They have to be stopped before a child, dog or any other living thing is harmed in the process.
This behavior is not only environmentally unconscionable; it is against the law. To endanger animals on public property is a misdemeanor, but it would be a more serious offense if a dog or child is endangered.
According to Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Sgt. Vivian May, this person, or persons, is breaking city and county laws (§12.08.200 and §17.04.470 respectively). If anyone knows who it is, or sees someone placing gopher poison around Trancas Park, they should report this to Lost Hills. Only the City of Malibu can authorize use of chemicals on municipal property.
This serious issue came to the forefront when Malibu City Councilmember Jefferson Wagner announced at a recent council meeting that he has found discarded gopher bait wrappers several times during a two-month-plus interval at the city park. Wagner says, “We have no idea who is doing this,” and he adds that he has attempted to get his colleagues to take action but they have not done so.
Wagner proposes placing a few raptor poles, aka predator poles, in the park to attract owls and other birds that will put their hunting skills to work, thereby balancing nature in a safe way. Other communities use this method of rodent control successfully. The mobile poles reportedly cost about $2000 each, which is a small price to ensure that a park created for children and dogs is not a toxic threat.
Whoever is placing poison bait in the park may misguidedly think they are being helpful by trying to prevent gopher holes that might cause someone to trip and injure themselves. But the self-appointed exterminator may not be aware that, after gophers ingest the poison, they often push the bait canisters out of their tunnels, which is where Wagner says he has repeatedly found the gray tubes with red writing on them. A dog might encounter the tubes and think they are toys, or a curious child might pick one up.
Whoever is doing this appears to be unaware of the repeated public entreaties to stop using rodenticides because of the terrible toll they take on local wildlife in the form of secondary poisoning. The gopher eats the poison, and then is consumed by a crow, coyote or bobcat; and soon species up and down the food chain have succumbed to an agonizing death.
One is loathe to think that there is premeditated malice connected to the placing of poison in the park. However, malice may be an inherent subconscious component in all wanton destruction of living things.
The potential for tragedy in Trancas Park should be a warning to anyone considering the use of rodenticides on any property in Malibu. There is no environmental problem that cannot be resolved safely, humanely and in harmony with nature.

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