Wednesday, February 26, 2014

They Shoot Squirrels in Berkeley: Don't They?

Will they shoot squirrels in Berkeley? Will Bullwinkle lose Rocky? The City of Berkeley deposited about 1.9 million tons of residential, industrial, and commercial trash on a 90 acre landfill on San Francisco Bay. The City covered it over and named it Cesar Chavez Park. Cesar Chavez deserved better than having an abandoned dump named for him, but I digress. The Park has become home to a prolific population of ground squirrels and gophers. The people of Berkeley believe in making love, not war. They love to feed the adorable squirrels. The squirrels and gophers love to borrow through the soft detritus of society by the Dock of the Bay. The bureaucrats of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered Berkeley in 2009 to reduce the squirrel population at the Park. Bureaucrats versus squirrels. The squirrels will win. The bureaucrats claim the assiduous digging of the burrows breaks the cap on the dump and releases “garbage juice” into the Bay. “Garbage juice!’ I’ve heard of pond scum before, but garbage juice? Is that a scientific term? Should I now use “garbage juice” instead of “leachate” in my Toxic Torts class? What hasn’t garbage juice been a problem at the score of other dumps on the Bay? Is this just another example of the uniqueness of Berzerkeley? The Berkeley City Council has acceded to The Great Ground Squirrel Slaughter. The War on Squirrels has as much chance of success in Berkeley as the War on Drugs. Civil disobedience is expected, perhaps a Squirrel-in. The cry will echo through the hills of Berkeley: “Free Rocky the Squirrel.” The squirrels are like coyotes. The more you kill, the faster they breed. New colonies will migrate to the open spaces. Lebranstran for ground squirrels in Berkeley! The problem is how to dispose of them. I have a vague memory decades ago of a thriving ground squirrel population by San Francisco’s fabled Cliff House at the foot of the Bay. The tourists came to look at the entrance to the Bay, but fed the squirrels. Something happened to these squirrels. Was it a poison or infection? I don’t know. We also don’t know how Berkeley, with its hired exterminator, will expiate the squirrel population on a one acre test site. Poisons are out. They would kill desirable species, including a significant percent of Berkeley’s dogs and cats. State law prohibits the transplant of these mammals. They are condemned to live the rest of their lives in Berkeley. They could shoot the critters, but in Berkeley? The irony is that Cesar Chavez was opposed to violence. Suggestions include offering a dollar bounty for each dead squirrel the neighborhood children bring in. A corollary is to issue BB guns to the kids with the dollar bounty. The kids could probably wipe out the squirrels in a week. Another alternative would be to bring in gopher snakes. They love rodents squirreled in burrows. The theory is that the exterminator will trap the animals and then kill them offsite. Let me suggest an alternative. The captured squirrels and ground hogs could be placed on the menus of San Francisco’s Cliff House and Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. Ground Squirrel – a true San Francisco Bay Treat, boiled in garbage juice.

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