Saving our wildlife

By Elizabeth Nickerson

Two of my childhood summers were spent in my dad’s RV, deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. I was twelve years old and learned the basics of living in the mountains: how to start a fire, how to right a capsized boat, how to shoot a gun, and what to look out for at night. There are quite a few things to be cautious of in the woods, bears and mountain lions among them. 

One July night–after making our weekly 60 mile round trip to the grocery store–we walked back to our camper cradling grocery bags in our arms. Before I stepped through the door I peered out into the darkness to see the dim outline of a cat-like body. It was a mountain-lion, and its eyes lit up against the glare of my flashlight; I nearly dropped the bags.

Now, I live far away from the woods, but that experience has never left me and I often recall my brush with wildlife to new friends and acquaintances. Mountain lions are huge, majestic cats that play a critical role in California ecosystems; our state wouldn’t be the same without them. But they weren’t always thought important. In the former half of the 20th century, hunters were offered bounties for mountain lions–they were considered “big game”. Thankfully, in 1990 our legislators officially protected them1.

 Nearly 30 years later, mountain lions are still fighting for their lives but against a different foe: poison.

 Undesirable rat populations on public lands are managed using second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs)–essentially, very strong rat poisons. 

SGARs move up the food-chain, building up in large animals like mountain-lions who prey on small mammals, and killing them. And, mountain-lions aren’t the only victim, all our beloved big mammals are at risk.

 A study found these rodenticides in 75% of animals tested2.

 “Leaving no trace” is a key tenet of backpackers and outdoors-people in general (the less desirable practices of which involve having a trowel at the ready to bury your human waste). The principles of “leaving no trace” align with the perspective that we–as humans–are no more important than our plant and animal neighbors.

 I wish these principles were applied to rodenticide practices. It seems like common sense to me; don’t poison our beautiful, ecologically important wildlife. 

 The California Ecosystems Protection Act of 2020 (AB 1788) seeks to protect our majestic mammals by banning the use of these incredibly poisonous SGARs. Our legislature already knows how detrimental SGARs are, they banned consumer sales six years ago.

I don’t want our mountain-lions to go the way of the grizzly. Call your legislator and tell them to vote YES on  AB 1788 and protect our ecosystems.

  1. National Park Service, “Mountain Lions”