Bob McPhail 12:30 p.m., April 26
Federal Agent Using Rifle to Take Out Predators in San Dieguito Lagoon
Predation has become such a problem at the San Dieguito Lagoon near the Del Mar fairgrounds that an agent of the United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services division has been employing a rifle to kill a list of varmints raiding the nests of protected bird species there.
But does the practice represent a hazard to human interlopers who have of late been frequently sighted illegally wandering within the area?
"Shooting was used to remove crows, ground squirrels, and one coyote observed on the nesting sites," according to a May in-house report by Wildlife Services specialist Joseph Baima.
An inventory of actions accompanying the memo shows that three squirrels were shot, as were three American crows, in addition to the coyote, which was killed May 8.
The memo adds that "Evidence and observations of numerous coyotes using the lagoon were recorded in May."
But "the most frequently captured predator species this month was ground squirrels and roof rats," the document goes on to say.
"Seven raccoons and four long-tailed weasels were also removed."
The report blames part of the problerm on what it speculates is illegal dumping of animals near the protected area.
"Wildlife Specialist Baima suspects raccoons are being released on the west side of I-5 near the emergency call box because of the sudden increase of raccoons trapped in this specific area.
"A sudden increase of activity in one specific area is typical of animals being relocated by the public.
"This pattern has occurred on other nesting sites located in urban areas.
"[Baima] moved and set additional cage traps to remove the raccoons before they got to the nesting sites."
Besides the racoons, a certain kind of large rodent has grown into a virtual plague: "At the present, the main concern is the established populations of roof rats that have spread along I-5."
Besides the rats, human instrusions are also a growing issue.
"During the month of May there were several incidents of trespassing in San Dieguito Lagoon," the memo notes. "Most of them involved unleashed dogs, joggers, people riding bicycles, and juveniles with spray paint."
"On May 11th, Specialist Baima contacted Ranger Natalie Borchirot regarding people trespassing near the nesting sites."
"They both agreed the increase of people was due to the longer summer days and summer break from schools.
"She assured Specialist Baima there would be more patrols during the summer, particularly in the evening when it was common to see people."
Interviewed this morning by phone, Ryan McCreary, assistant district supervisor for Wildlife Services, said the division's shooting program represented no danger to the human interlopers or neighbors because, "it's done safely and very rarely used."