Massive Bird Kill? – Feds to Drop 3,000 Pounds of Rat Poison on the Farallons

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The California Coastal Commission approved a plan last week to allow the federal government to drop 3,000 pounds of rodenticide on the Farallon Islands to remove an infestation of mice that is a threat to local birds and other diverse species.

The island chain, near San Francisco, is known as a center for research in marine biology and is occasionally in the news for long-distance swimming attempts, as the bravest of endurance swimmers have traversed the 28-mile distance through frigid, shark-infested waters between the islands and the Golden Gate Bridge.

But the mice, introduced by sailors a century ago, have become enough of a problem that the environmentally-minded Coastal Commission decided that enough was enough.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday:

The federal government plan to rid the wildlife refuge of tens of thousands of invasive mice, which has been debated for months, was approved in a 5-3 vote by the California Coastal Commission on Thursday.

The commission’s approval was granted despite opposition expressed at the hearing by one of the world’s most distinguished conservationists, Dr. Jane Goodall, who said the airdrop of a “super-toxic rat poison” will “inflict pain and suffering on a great many sentient animals.”

The rocky outcrop of sea stacks and islands west of the Golden Gate are home to 300,000 breeding seabirds, as well as five species of seals and sea lions. That unique biodiversity, however, also includes more than 1,000 mice per acre, a population that has exploded in recent years.

“They’re just covering the ground,” Pete Warzybok, Farallon Islands program leader for Point Blue Conservation Science research institute told the Marin Independent Journal in April. “During this time period, the island is riddled with mouse burrows. There are times when you walk outside and you actually see the ground undulating as the mice are running about below the surface. Quite frankly, it’s a horrifying sight. It’s like something right out of a horror movie.”

The LA Times adds:

What will happen to the animals, including birds, who feed on the mice?

Each year, burrowing mainland owls fly to the Farallones to feast on the teeming mouse population. When the mice population drops, as it does seasonally, the owls then eat the eggs of the ashy storm petrel, a bird some consider a future candidate for the endangered species list.

Some environmentalists, unsurprisingly, are going out of their minds.

“They have picked the worst chemical to use in the worst possible place — the most protected piece of ocean on the planet,” said Richard Charter, noting that the islands are designated as a national marine sanctuary and California Marine Protected Area.

Charter, senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation, predicts the anti-coagulant poison — which he notes is so dangerous, it’s banned on land in California — will get into the food chain and wreak havoc. We shouldn’t be surprised, he said, if we see “seagulls staggering around Fisherman’s Wharf and dying there.”

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