Mendocino County Sued Over Wildlife Services Contract Renewal

MENDOCINO, Calif.— Animal-protection and conservation organizations filed suit today challenging Mendocino County’s contract renewal with Wildlife Services, a notorious federal wildlife-killing program that killed close to 3 million animals in the United States in 2014.

“Mendocino County is using taxpayer money to kill its native wildlife, which is highly valued by many Mendocino residents,” said Elly Pepper, Natural Resources Defense Council wildlife advocate. “Instead, it should put that money towards nonlethal practices, which preserve our native wildlife while effectively deterring predators from livestock.”

According to the complaint, the county’s renewal of the contract violates the California Environmental Quality Act and a previously signedsettlement agreement, in which the county agreed to comply with the Act before renewing its contract with Wildlife Services. The coalition consists of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote and a Mendocino Country resident.

“By claiming exemptions from CEQA, Mendocino County is attempting to avoid performing any environmental studies on Wildlife Services’ environmental impacts,” stated Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “Through this lawsuit, we hope to ensure Mendocino County officials follow through on the obligations they agreed to in our settlement agreement.”

Mendocino County’s previous $144,000 contract authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program to kill hundreds of coyotes, as well as bears, bobcats, foxes and other animals in the county every year, without fully assessing the ecological damage or considering alternatives.

Although hundreds of county residents sent postcards and letters to the Board of Supervisors and showed up to make public comment at two meetings, the Board renewed the contract without taking the time to fully investigate the program, learn about the public’s concerns, and consider alternatives, as required by the Act.

”Unfortunately, despite the county’s promise to consider nonlethal alternatives that are better for wildlife and taxpayers, county supervisors decided to do an end run around the law,” said Amy Atwood of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They have misled and disappointed hundreds of their constituents.”

Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate killing of millions of animals annually has many damaging impacts on the environment. Peer-reviewed research shows that such reckless slaughter of animals — particularly predators — results in broad ecological destruction and loss of biodiversity. The program’s controversial and indiscriminate killing methods are employed largely at the behest of ranchers to protect livestock and have come under increased scrutiny from scientists, the public and government officials. In addition the agency has been responsible for the countless deaths of threatened and endangered species, as well as family pets.

“We are encouraging Mendocino County to explore and adopt alternative, nonlethal models (like the Marin County Livestock & Wildlife Protection Program) that are more ecologically, ethically and economically defensible — and more effective at protecting livestock,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Marin-based Project Coyote.

“ALDF and its allies will continue to push for CEQA compliance and wildlife protection in Mendocino County,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “California deserves more than shady dealings from their elected officials.”

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The Animal Legal Defense Fund is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system through litigation, legislation, supporting prosecutors, and advancing the emerging field of animal law. For more information, visit aldf.org.

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places: www.biologicaldiversity.org.

Project Coyote is a North American coalition of wildlife educators, scientists, predator friendly ranchers, and community leaders promoting coexistence between people and wildlife, and compassionate conservation through education, science, and advocacy.
Visit: ProjectCoyote.org

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

When Wildlife Needs a Bath

In 2012, Bird Ally X/Humboldt Wildlife Care Center responded to a wildlife crisis – hundreds of juvenile Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) were contaminated by fish waste in various ways all around the North Coast. (Read more about the causes and what has been accomplished to prevent this problem here and here and here)

The Northcoast Fish Waste response had several positive outcomes: first we released 80% of our patients – 4 out of 5 impacted Pelicans were returned to their wild lives! Second, as seen at the links provided above, major improvements to public fishing infrastructure radically reduced the potential for injury to Pelicans and other wild animals. Third, we were able to use and demonstrate that more environmentally conscious soaps can be used to clean wildlife, and that the soap we used also reduced stress suffered by our patients during the cleaning process.

pelican 7genBAX staff and volunteers wash a fish-oiled young Brown Pelican in 2012.      photo: Bird Ally X

Bird Ally X was founded by seasoned oiled wildlife response personnel. Each of us has worked many years in this field and we are very familiar with the best available care for oiled wildlife. Our founding staff has responded to oil spills all over the country and internationally as well.

With over 200 Pelicans to wash, we were reluctant to use a detergent that might have a deleterious impact on the enivronment. Fish waste is a natural organic substance, but the detergent that is most closely associated with oiled wildlife response is not exactly something you’d want to dump in the frog pond! So we began to search for detergent that was far less toxic.

After trying several brands advertised as natural, we found Seventh Generation® Free and Clear to be the most effective at removing the fish oil. This soap was far less irritating to the person using it as well. The detergent most commonly used on oiled wildlife can be very harsh to work with over an extended period of time and some people have a very adverse reaction to it, developing rashes, or experiencing burning sensations in their eyes and other unpleasant side effects.

As an excellent, unexpected bonus, Seventh Generation® rinsed out of feathers in half the time it takes to rinse out the standard detergent. This is a huge improvement. Typically, it can take nearly as long to rinse soap from a bird’s feathers as it takes to wash out the oil. While significantly less toxic than petroleum, detergent is also a contaminant to feathers. All of the soap must be rinsed out in order for a bird to be waterproof and able to withstand the challenging marine environment.

We have to balance the need for clean feathers against the patient’s ability to endure the stress of the cleaning process, a process so demanding that it requires each animal to be in relatively stable condition before being washed. Cutting the rinse time in half was an enormous reduction in the stress our patients endure.

Every pelican we washed during that spill was washed using this soap.

That was three years ago. Since then we’ve washed a a large number of wild animals who were contaminated by a wide range of contaminants – fish oil, motor oil, crude oil, vegetable oil, butcher shop waste, food waste from dumpsters, and petroleum distallates. In each case Seventh Generation® performed excellently, as good as any other soap at removing the contaminant. Our first impression, that the soap rinses in half the time as others, still holds true.

In fact, our most recently washed patient, a Common Loon contaminated with crude oil most likely from a natural seep such as occurs on the California coast, was washed with Seventh Generation® and instead of doing the intensive hands-on rinsing procedure, after we were confident the oil was removed, we put her immediately into a warm water pool. Within a day she was fully waterproof! Within a week she was released.

So, while the commercials on television might lead you to believe that only one soap saves wildlife, at Bird Ally X, we disagree. Until we discover a better option, Seventh Generation® is our soap of choice when animals need a bath or they’ll die.

(Are you a wildlife rehabilitator with questions about our experience with this detergent? Please contact us at info@birdallyx.net Thanks!)

(Note: during the Northcoast Fish Waste response, BAX reached out to Seventh Generation for help providing the amount of soap we needed to wash 250 birds… we received a case of their dish detergent at that time – we have received no other support from Seventh Generation in any form since then. This is not an advertisement for their products but a report on the improvements being made in oiled wildlife care.)

 

 

Fish and Game Commission Fortuna Meeting in August: Bobcat Protection Act!

 

Bobcat-illustrationNearly 2 years after the Governor signed Assembly Bill 1213, the Bobcat Protection Act, into law, the California Fish And Game Commission will be deciding how to implement the new law when they meet August 5 in Fortuna, here in Humboldt County.

Across North America, Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are routinely trapped for an overseas fur market that can bring from less than a hundred to well over a thousand dollars per “pelt.” In California, the discovery by wildlife advocates that Bobcats were being lured by trappers out of Joshua Tree National Park brought the issue to the attention of the Sate Assembly.

The Bobcat Protection Act is a much needed remedy to the thoughtless disregard for these beautiful and intrinsically precious felines. Here is the overall summation of its reach as it appears in the legislation:

This bill would enact the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013, which would, beginning January 1, 2014, make it unlawful to trap any bobcat, or attempt to do so, or to sell or export any bobcat or part of any bobcat taken in the area surrounding Joshua Tree National Park, as specified. The bill would require the commission to amend its regulations to prohibit the trapping of bobcats adjacent to the boundaries of each national or state park and national monument or wildlife refuge in which bobcat trapping is prohibited, as specified. The bill would require the commission, commencing January 1, 2016, to consider whether to prohibit bobcat trapping within, and adjacent to, preserves, state conservancies, and any other public or private conservation areas identified to the commission by the public as warranting protection, and to amend its regulations accordingly, as specified. The bill would prohibit the trapping of any bobcat, or attempt to do so, on any private land not belonging to the trapper without the express written consent of the owner of that property, as specified. The bill would require the commission to set trapping license fees for the 2014–15 season, and any subsequent seasons in which bobcat trapping is allowed, at the level necessary to fully recover all reasonable administrative and implementation costs of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the commission associated with the trapping of bobcats in the state, as specified. The bill would provide that these provisions do not limit the ability of the department or the commission to impose additional requirements, restrictions, or prohibitions related to the taking of bobcats.

According to the law, “the area surrounding Joshua Tree National Park, as specified” is a geographical description using common features of the landscape that are easily recognized:  “East and South of State Highway 62 from the intersection of Interstate 10 to the intersection of State Highway 177; West of State Highway 177 from the intersection of State Highway 62 to the intersection with Interstate 10; North of Interstate 10 from State Highway 177 to State Highway 62.”

The law also stipulates that all other protected areas be described in like manner.  As it happens, the other protected areas (that is, national parks, state parks, national monuments, and wildlife refuges) number in the hundreds. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife deemed this effort to be too costly and devised a method to reduce the number of individual protected areas. The Department’s proposed method of implementation is to create two zones, northern and southern, outside of which all Bobcat trapping would be banned, reducing the number of protected areas by a factor of ten from over 300 to just over 30. At the meeting of the FGC in Van Nuys last December, CDFW staff stated that even with the number of sites in need of description reduced the task would be time-consuming and expensive. The resources required to enforce the law in these buffered areas would also be costly, making enforcement very challenging, if not impossible.

Of course, another way to implement the Bobcat Protection Act, allowed by the new law and suggested by outgoing Fish and Game Commissioner Richard Rogers,  is to ban Bobcat trapping completely, a measure that the new law sanctions and common sense endorses.

Bird Ally X strongly supports a complete ban on Bobcat trapping. As we stated in our March 2015 letter to the Commission:

Now, after centuries of abuse, it is imperative that our policies and programs reflect what we already know. A tradition of cruelty, a tradition of greed, a tradition of reckless disregard for the natural world that gives us our lives and which we barely comprehend is no tradition to protect. 

The only sensible plan is to ban commercial and so-called recreational trapping. The Bobcat Protection Act is intended to protect Bobcats, not Bobcat trappers. 

Bird Ally X staff, volunteers and supporters will attend the meeting to offer our public comments and to urge the Fish and Game Commission to enact a complete ban. Please, join us!

More details will follow – subscribe to this blog for updates!

Also, please check out Project Coyote’s Change.org petition seeking a total ban on Bobcat trapping.

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