There was little to no protest from residents or animal rights groups Wednesday when city contractors began carrying out death sentences on a bevy of levee-damaging squirrels.
Pest-control workers plopped poisonous bait along the levee near the Belmont Slough and Sea Cloud Park area in an attempt to control what city officials claim is an exponential growth in the ground squirrel population.
City officials first considered poisoning the squirrels in November, saying the pesky rodents could damage the levee, creating a flood risk and posing a health threat to humans.
The city last month offered Earl’s Pest Control about $20,000 to set containers of blue poisonous pellets along the levee over a 12-month period, beginning Wednesday. Dogs and cats are not attracted to the pellets, which are set in boxes with 4-inch openings, city officials said. A 40-pound dog would need to consume five pounds of the pellets before risking death, officials said. When squirrels eat them, they become tired and head back to their burrows to die, officials said.
City officials said the eradication effort has faced little opposition. The city hosted two separate public discussions to address any concerns, "but we didn’t have a big turnout," said Laura Galli, assistant engineer for Public Works.
It was a stark contrast from recent eradication plans brought up in three other Bay Area cities. Two years ago, Mountain View residents vehemently opposed a decision to kill rodents that bit as many as six people at a local park. Last year, a petition was launched by residents in Antioch chiding a local golf course for allegedly poisoning squirrels with pesticide. And in Martinez last November, city officials were met with grand protest when they considered killing a family of beavers whose dam posed a flood risk on Alhambra Creek.
There was hardly such a defense for Foster City squirrels, according to city officials.
The Peninsula Humane Society offered alternatives to killing the squirrels, including a type of birth control, but the city said the method was too expensive.
Humane Society President Ken White said he doesn’t want to see any animal eradicated, but understands the city’s need to protect its levees and control the squirrel population.
"It’s really a tough call," White said. "When I get asked about how to get rid of pesky raccoons, squirrels, deer and so on, my short answer is, ‘Move to Los Angeles.’"
White does warn that killing does "little to prevent the next generation of species from moving in."