LA City Beat article on Ground Squirrels

Getting Squirrelly
In an effort to prevent an outbreak of the plague, Santa Monica is ordered to kill off its squirrels


There are too many squirrels in Santa Monica’s Palisades Park. Too many, at least, for health officials from Los Angeles County. Those officials say the squirrels carry fleas, and those fleas have the potential to carry the plague. The Plague! Naturally, says Santa Monica Mayor Robert Holbrook, the city felt inclined to protect its citizens from a potential health problem. So, the city contracted bounty hunters to kill the squirrels at a rate of $3,900 a week, in addition to $5.50 per dead squirrel.

There has only been one case of the plague in California in the last 80 years, according to Paul E. Bruce, regional program coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States. “The reasoning they have given for the killings is so obscure it’s almost ludicrous.”

Mayor Holbrook disagrees. “Look,” he says, “I’m the last person that wants to put down these little animals. But if we didn’t take some action, what kind of leaders would we be? I cannot ignore an order from the county when they say it is a public health issue. I have a mandate to protect the public.”

(Muzika Comment: Protect the public from what or whom, Bob? Vangordon from the County says they never do risk assessments. NEVER!! She said that's how they've been doing business for 25 years. AND. she said, no one has ever questioned them except for Santa Monica. Even the idiot head of County Health, Jonathan Fielding, says plague in an urban setting is very rare and not a matter of increased concern even in a plague area.

BOB Holbrook was the ONLY Councilmember to vote no against a motion to direct City staff to explore non-lethal ways of controlling the ground squirrel population. So when he says he is the last person who wants to kill them, he is flat out lying.

Bob also sent me an email saying he was that last one who wanted to kill them one day after I sent him an email that Animal Defense League and Animal Liberation Front activists were spotted in Santa Monica, probably looking over the squirrel situation. Seems Bob remembered how the ADL and ALF punished former LAAS General Manager, Jerry Greenwalt, who lives in Santa Monica. I think Bob didn’t want that happening at his house, so he told a good lie.)

Edward Muzika, a former candidate for Santa Monica City Council and activist, has closely followed the issue since 1998, when he first learned that the city would gas and poison the squirrels. He suggests other factors are at play. “The mayor said to me that cliff erosion was also a concern,” Muzika says. “I think that’s what he’s truly worried about, not the plague.”

Nevertheless, the county has ordered Santa Monica to control the squirrel population. But that does not automatically mean the city has to kill squirrels. “There are viable alternatives,” argues Bruce. “Given that the risks are so low for the diseases … there is time, it seems to me, to explore other options.”

That is what Muzika and others are trying to organize, pointing to an earlier initiative by Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown that had the city try the Birth Control Project, run by Animal Advocates. “This was being effective – there was a 30 percent reduction in active burrows,” Muzika says. “That was the quota, a 30 percent reduction. Animal Advocates had met that quota, then the city decided that wasn’t good enough after all.”

For his part, McKeown says that he tried to show the city that an alternative was viable, but now that the killings have resumed, there is little he can do. He will try again, he says, to convince the city that alternatives should be pursued, because, “trapping and gassing squirrels seems like obvious overkill. If your dog has fleas, you don’t kill your dog.”

(Muzika's Comment: Richard Bloom said that Kevin’s analogy did not fit, because you can’t pick up the squirrels and dust them, so he rejected that solution. He did not ask Kevin or staff why the State of California or the County themselves, recommended the use of flea powder to control the plague's causal vector--the flea, even in plague areas, not killing squirrels.

Come on Richard, you don’t have to catch the squirrels to flea powder them, the bait station does it automatically when they came and go. AND, if you spread insecticide on the ground, it kills the fleas there; you don’t have to wait for them to jump aboard a squirrel. You flea-powder the whole house and yard, not just the dog.
Former Mayor Pam O'Connor left before the June 15, 2004 vote of Council, saying it was a public health matter and not a matter for Council to attend to. Her attitude was kill them, why waste time? Seems Pam has become a Republican. Pam is as out of it as Holbrook and Bloom.
LaCityBeat article, by David Davin, September 14, 2006:

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