Federal wildlife officials were urged Wednesday to withdraw a proposal to drop 1.5 tons of rat poison on remote islands off the coast of California to kill a mice infestation until they address questions on the impact to wildlife.
The California Coastal Commission heard public comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan, which has drawn criticism from local conservation groups. The commission is seeking to determine whether the plan complies with state coastal management rules.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a report presented to the commission in March that a massive house mice population is threatening the whole ecosystem on the rugged Farallon Islands, 27 miles (44 kilometers) off the coast of San Francisco.
The archipelago is home to the largest seabird breeding colony in the contiguous United States, with approximately 300,000 to 350,000 birds of 13 species, including the rare ashy storm petrels. The islands are also used by marine mammal species for resting and breeding and by migratory birds.
Federal wildlife officials proposed using helicopters to dump 2,900 pounds (1,315 kilograms) of cereal grain pellets laced with brodifacoum, an anticoagulant that causes rodents to bleed to death. The substance is banned in California.
Officials acknowledged the plan will kill some seagulls and other species but argue that the benefits of eliminating the invasive species will heal the whole ecosystem.
Coastal seabird die-off puzzles experts
“The only way to protect these species and allow the ecosystem to recover is 100% eradication of the mice,” said Pete Warzibok, a biologist who has worked on the Farallon Islands for more than 20 years. “Anything else is simply a stopgap measure that will not adequately address the problem.”