The Farallon Islands off the coast of California are a breeding colony for some 350,000 birds from 13 species. It is estimated that there are only about 5,000-10,000 ashy storm-petrels, with nearly half of the world's population breeding on the Islands. The island is also the only place in the world for a unique insect called the Farallon cave cricket.
The island also hosts over 60,000 invasive house mice that arrived on the island refuge as shipboard stowaways in the19th century. The mice eat seabird and salamander eggs and spread the seeds of non-native weeds around the island. They also attract burrowing owls throughout the year. When the mice population crashes during the winter rains, the owls catch endangered the ashy storm petrels.
California Coastal Commission on Thursday approved a controversial plan to spread one-and-a-half tons of toxic rodenticide bait laced with a deadly wildlife poison from helicopters to eradicate the mice population.
However, some environmental groups have opposed the plan as it risks killing wildlife, causing poison spills into a national marine sanctuary.
The nonprofit Beyond Pesticides said in a statement:
As much as we would like to restore native ecosystems, the application of poison is a toxic, simplified solution to a complex problem that requires the wisdom of nature herself, as species evolve and adapt to new conditions. This deadly poison would become part of the food web, killing exponentially more animals than it could possibly save.
The next step after the voting will be for the regional director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether to approve the proposal or to declare the vote a record of decision.
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