Illegal marijuana growers in the Pacific Northwest may soon have to contend not just with federal drug agents but with wildlife biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The service has proposed granting Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific fisher, a cat-like rodent, which is increasingly falling victim to rat poison used on illicit marijuana operations hidden in the forests of Northern California, Oregon and Washington.
A proposal to list the fisher as threatened was posted Tuesday in the Federal Register. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17 in Redding, California, and comments are being accepted until Jan. 5.
“Fishers have been part of forests in the Pacific states for thousands of years, but they have virtually disappeared from many landscapes across Washington, Oregon and portions of the Sierra Nevada in California,” said the agency in a Monday press release.
Matt Baun, Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Yreka, Calif., said those tending the pot farms use rat poison or rodenticides to get rid of the wood rats and other pests that feed on marijuana plants. The use of rodenticides is prohibited in the forests.
“So what happens is, the wood rats ingest the poison, and the fishers will eat the infected wood rat and themselves become sick,” Mr. Baun said.
Marijuana growers also spread rat poison around the irrigation lines used to water marijuana plants, he said.
“Marijuana plants require enormous amounts of water, and so they do these makeshift irrigation lines from these tributary streams to the marijuana gardens, and lace the irrigation pipes with these rodenticides,” Mr. Baun said. “So the fishers and other animals that find water there will also be ingesting the rodenticides.”
Federal drug agents and local law enforcement officers who break up the marijuana farms are often ill equipped to deal with the issues brought on by …read more