Coastal commission to hear public comment on Farallon Islands rodent eradication plan

Public comment on an environmental impact statement for a plan to drop more than a ton of poison grain pellets on the Farallon Islands to eradicate the invasive house mice population there will be heard by the California Commission when it meets Wednesday in San Luis Obispo.

The EIS for the project outlines three alternatives for dealing with rodents on the islands located more than 20 miles outside the Golden Gate and under management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

One alternative is to take no action at all to deal with the mouse population other than current minimal efforts such as spring traps.

The preferred alternative would involve using a helicopter for the "aerial broadcast of rodent bait," the rodenticide brodifacoum, along with "hand baiting, bait stations, and traps in order to benefit native seabirds and restore natural ecosystem processes on the South Farallon Islands" according to the commission staff report.

The alternative is preferred over a third option using a different poison because it is fatal with only one feeding, rather than several.

Application would be over three weeks during the final quarter of the year, "scheduled to occur outside seabird and marine mammal breeding seasons and when most wildlife populations are near annual minimums," according to the staff report.

"We expect that eradicating invasive mice will benefit native seabirds, amphibians, terrestrial invertebrates, plants, and wilderness quality, and will help restore natural ecosystem processes on the islands," the report says in recommending the alternative.

"The South Farallon Islands have sustained ecological damage over many decades from the presence of invasive mice. Eradicating house mice would eliminate the last remaining invasive vertebrate species on the Refuge, thereby enhancing the recovery of this unique and sensitive ecosystem."

Many of the comments submitted on the proposal are highly critical.

"Undoubtedly the poison will travel up the food chain; not only killing the intended mice, but also the entire predator/carnivore community living with the coastal zone," wrote Kim Fitts, a wildlife biologist and environmental consultant.

"This is exactly how the food web is destroyed for generations."

The California Coastal Commission will hear public comments on the EIS when it meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Embassy Suites, 333 Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo.

The EIS can be reviewed online here.