No notice about squirrel poison upsets park users

February 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Officials in Menlo Park are taking its squirrel problem seriously, but after starting a poisoning campaign, the public outrage is causing them to re-think their original plan.

Bedwell Bayfront Park in Menlo Park is a place where people and wildlife normally co-exist. The California Ground Squirrel is just one of the animals that can be found there, but these days you'd be hard pressed to find any. That's because the city spent nearly $10,000 killing the squirrels by injecting poison into their burrows.

The city started noticing the ground squirrels this summer after health officials mentioned burrowing squirrels could damage land fill caps. Those caps stop methane gas from escaping and causing fire hazards.

"It's not the nice thing to do, but in the end you're just going to have so many it's going to be a real nuisance," said Jose Barajas, a professional landscaper.

Many park users met the city's decision with outrage. The city didn't get public input and never posted warning signs, however, either is required under state and federal law because the poison used had low toxicity levels.

Mary Paglieri is a human-animal conflict mediator from Little Blue Society.

"Poison is poison is poison," said Paglieri. "Even if your pets are out here and they're drinking water from puddles in an area where it may have been baited with poison, it may have detrimental effects."

Meantime, the public backlash is still growing.

"I think it's just harsh, killing squirrels," said Amelia Vea, a park user.

"If there are toxins raised because of the squirrels, I think people just want to be clued in before it happens," said Robin Wheeler from Menlo Park.

As a result, the city is changing its tune and squirrel kill policy.

"I'd like it be to noticed [sic] if it has to happen. I think there should be a discussion about how to do it, if it needs to even be done," said Mayor Pro Tem Kirsten Keith.

Keith said it is not clear if the poisonings even worked.

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