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Gophers, squirrels blamed for Bay toxins

If you happen to be a squirrel or gopher living Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park, now might be a good time to scurry towards a safer home.

The city of Berkeley recently announced  plans to eliminate the both rodent populations living in the park — formerly a landfill — as the furry creatures are allegedly responsible for dangerous toxins being released into the San Francisco Bay.

The landfill that the park now lies upon was completely sealed in 1991. Rainwater, though, has been flowing into deep holes left by the animals and washing dangerous toxins into the Bay, according to the city.

Rodent overpopulation at the park has been a growing problem.  In 2009, the Regional Water Quality Control Board notified the city, which responded by installing raptor homes in the hopes that birds of prey would bring down the population.

This did not work, nor did the idea to bring owls. The city realized that owls hunt at night — when the squirrels are underground.  Berkeley city spokesman Matthai Chakko told the CoCo Times:

“Part of the issue is that the squirrel population is higher than it should be … people are giving them food, and there are signs out there telling them not to, but they aren’t paying attention.”

A firm called Animal Damage Control is being subcontracted by the city to take care of the burrowing critters, and have plans to trap the squirrels and gophers one acre at a time using 24 baited traps.

The firm is not revealing if or how they plan on killing any captured animals.

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