It’s time to comment on the deadly project on the Farallon Islands

US Fish and Wildlife proposes to aerial bomb 1.5 tons of rodenticide on the Farallon Islands to kill mice that do not harm birds, as explained in articles published earlier by Conservation Sense and Nonsense.  The California Coastal Commission declined to approve the project in 2019.  At the request of US Fish and Wildlife, the California Coastal Commission will reconsider the Farallon Islands project at their meeting on December 16, 2021.  It’s time to make your opinion of this project known to the Coastal Commission.  The Environmental Impact Statement for the project explains the project and its anticipated impacts. 

Click on this pictures of the Farallon Islands to see a video prepared by the Ocean Foundation about the islands and the proposed project.

Below is my message to the Coastal Commission. Beyond Pesticides has also provided a sample comment letter that is available HERE.   Please consider sending your own comment to the Commission here: The deadline to send a written comment is 5 pm, Friday, December 10, 2021.  You can also submit a request to speak on agenda item 11b at the meeting HERE.   The deadline to request to speak is 5 pm, Wednesday, December 15, 2021. 

Update:  The project on the Farallon Islands that will aerial drop 1.5 tons of rodenticide to kill mice that have lived there for over 200 years was approved by the California Coastal Commission on December 16, 2021.  Speakers in opposition to the project did an outstanding job.  Jane Goodall recorded a message against the project.  The vote was 5-3.  Doubtful Commissioners asked some excellent questions and did not receive clear answers from US Fish & Wildlife.  As the meeting wore on over 7 hours, the project made less and less sense.

Dear California Coastal Commission, 

Please take my comments into consideration when evaluating the proposed project on the Farallon Islands.  I hope the Coastal Commission will confirm their lack of support of the project at your December 2021 meeting.

Thank you for your consideration.

Public Comment on Farallon Islands project

I am opposed to the plans to aerial bomb rodenticides on the Farallon Islands to eradicate mice for several reasons:

  • The project admits that hundreds of non-target birds will be killed by the rodenticide, either directly or by eating poisoned mice.  In September 2020, California banned the use of the rodenticide that will be used by this project because of the deadly impact on non-target wildlife, yet an exemption was created that will enable its use by this project.  The promoters of this project cannot deny that hundreds, if not thousands of non-target animals will be killed by this project.  That outcome is now confirmed by California State Law and by similar projects elsewhere in the world.   
  • The EIS clearly states that mice are not harming birds or chicks, the claimed beneficiaries of this project.  The EIS clearly states that a small population of burrowing owls is blamed for eating birds and chicks of other bird species. Removing the owls from the Farallon Islands is the non-toxic solution to the perceived problem. Yet, “…translocation of burrowing owls in lieu of eradicating mice was not considered as an alternative.” (pg 47)  The EIS then contradicts itself by offering translocation as mitigation for anticipated collateral bird mortality: “Migrant species including burrowing owls would be transported off the island released into suitable habitat on the mainland.” (pg 73)  Translocation is possible, but eradicating non-native mice is clearly the objective, not protecting bird species.  The mice are prey to many bird species.  Their loss will harm birds, not help them.
  • The food web on the Farallon Islands has not been adequately studied.  The project plan reports that the mice are a source of food for burrowing owls.  However, the project plan has not identified all of the predators of the mice.  Therefore, the project has not evaluated the extent to which the entire food web would be disrupted by the elimination of a major source of prey for birds of prey.  All predators of the mice are at risk of eating the poisoned mice and being killed by the poison.  Details on that issue are provided below.

These are the inadequacies of the EIS for this project:

Resident Burrowing Owls should be removed from Farallon Islands

The owls are the predators of the ashy storm petrel, not the mice.  Therefore, the owls are the obvious target for removal.  Given their small number relative to the large population of mice, their removal would be easier and less deadly to every animal living on the islands. 

This strategy was successfully used by the National Park Service to save the endangered Channel Island Fox on the Channel Islands.  Golden Eagles were not considered “native” to the Channel Islands.  They arrived in the 1990s because of feral pigs and goats that had been introduced to the islands.  When NPS took over management of the islands, they removed the feral pigs and goats, but not the Golden Eagles.  Deprived of the food the eagles came for, the eagles turned to preying on the Channel Island Fox, nearly driving it to extinction.  From 1999 to 2006, the eagles were trapped and moved off the island: “In order to mitigate golden eagle predation on island foxes, The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, with the support of the Park Service and The Nature Conservancy, relocated golden eagles to distant sites on the California mainland. A total of 44 golden eagles, including 10 eaglets born on the islands, were trapped and relocated, and monitoring indicates that none have returned.” NPS considers the removal of eagles the primary factor in saving the Channel Island Fox from extinction.  The 44 birds that were removed were more than 4 times more numerous than the 8-10 burrowing owls on the Farallon Islands.  They are enormous carnivorous birds, compared to the pint-sized, ground-dwelling burrowing owls. 

Please note that the threat to the fox posed by Golden Eagles was created by the removal of the prey of the Golden Eagles without adequate analysis and understanding of the food web.  NPS should have predicted that the loss of the preferred prey of Golden Eagles would disrupt the food web in ways that could have been predicted.  Now other “experts” are poised to make a similar mistake at the expense of thousands of rare birds and marine mammals on the Farallons.

The Madrone Chapter of Audubon Society in Santa Rosa opposes this project and agrees that relocation of burrowing owls is “feasible and could be planned and carried out.”

Disrupting the Food Web

The EIS has not adequately analyzed the food web on the Farallon Islands and has therefore not identified the environmental impact of eradicating an important source of food for the animals that live on the island. 

This depiction of a fresh-water aquatic food web is an example of the complexity of food webs.  The food web on the Farallon Islands is probably very different, but remains largely unknown because the EIS does not analyze it or describe it.  Source:  Creative Commons-Share Alike

According to the EIS, there are many birds of prey on the Farallon Islands, most migrating, but some resident:  falcons, hawks, kites, eagles, owls, and kestrels. Most of the migrating raptors are on the island in the fall, when the mouse population is at its peak.  The EIS acknowledges that the raptors probably eat mice on the island, but dismisses that as a significant issue. However, it would be a significant factor in evaluating environmental impact if migrating raptors compensate for the loss of mice as their prey by preying on birds or salamanders.  The EIS does not address the important question of what birds of prey will eat if mice are eradicated. 

Given that mice are expected to survive for 21 days after being poisoned, and the poison is expected to be effective for over 100 days, it is more likely that many birds of prey will be killed by eating poisoned dead or dying mice. The number of days the rodenticide is expected to be effective exceeds the known limits of hazing effectiveness. For that reason, the EIS says the project will “attempt” to capture raptors present on the island prior to and during bait application.  An unsuccessful “attempt” will result in the death of raptors.

There are also many animals living on the Farallons that could eat the poison or the poisoned mice, but not killed by the poison, such as invertebrates and Dungeness crabs.  Although they are not killed, they would be contaminated by the poison they eat and become killers of the animals that eat them, such as birds and marine mammals. 

The EIS states that many of the insects that live on the Farallons are detritivores that feed on decomposing carcasses, such as the poisoned mice.  Then they become killers of the warm-blooded animals that eat them.  The Farallon Islands are located within the Dungeness crab fishery.  If they are contaminated by poison pellets or fish, they could become killers throughout the fishery.  According to the EIS, “Adult crabs are opportunistic feeders, but prefer clams, fish, isopods and amphipods. Cannibalism is common. Several species of predators feed on Dungeness crabs, especially the pelagic larvae and small juveniles, including octopuses, larger crabs and predatory fish such as salmon, flatfishes, lingcod, cabezon and various rockfishes. They are numerous in offshore areas of the Gulf of the Farallones, and support one of the most productive fisheries in California.”

A similar mistake was made by a rat eradication project on the Palmyra atoll.  The first attempt to eradicate the rats in 2002 failed partly because Palmyra’s abundant land crabs outcompeted the rodents for the poisonous bait. The crabs’ physiology allowed them to eat the poison—the anticoagulant brodifacoum—without ill effect.  The reason why this attempt failed was that the “experts” who designed this poison drop did not realize that the rats lived in the coconut palms and didn’t spend much time on the ground.  In other words, the poison wasn’t dropped where the rats lived.  The second drop was delivered to the crowns of the palms:  “The crowns became a convenient platform for stashing cotton gauze sacks of poison bait, delivered by workers firing slingshots or dangling from helicopters.”  This project is now focused on eradicating 30,000 adult palms and over 2 million juvenile palms from Palmyra using herbicide.  These island eradications have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not successful and they ultimately put land managers on a perpetual pesticide treadmill.   The result is a poisoned environment that is dangerous to every living plant and animal on the island.

Ironically, the explosion of the mouse population on the Farallons was the unintended consequence of inadequate understanding of the food web:  “House mice and other animals such as cats and rabbits were introduced to the island when ships landed there in the 19th century. While the cats and rabbits have been removed, the mice population has exploded to an estimated 60,000, or about 500 mice per acre.”  One of the primary predators of the mice was removed, which resulted in increased population of their prey, the mice.  Now USFWS proposes to eradicate the prey, which will have unintended consequences, such as the death of the predators who will eat the poisoned mice, or the predators of the mice eating bird eggs and chicks instead, or predators not having adequate food, or all of the above.   

Rodenticides are known killers of birds of prey

This article published by Beyond Pesticides explains how birds of prey are killed by rodenticides:  “While a rodent is likely to die from this poison, ingesting it also turns it into a sort of poison Trojan horse for any predator that may take advantage of its slow decline. An eagle that eats a poisoned rodent at the edge of death will be the next to succumb to the anticoagulant effects ‘Humans need to understand that when those compounds get into the environment, they cause horrible damage to many species, including our national symbol, the bald eagle,’” said the scientist who conducted a study of eagle deaths that found: “‘The vast majority of bald and golden eagles in the United States are contaminated with toxic anticoagulant rodenticides, according to research published earlier this month.’” We know that 46 bald eagles and over 420 seabirds were killed by the rat eradication attempt on Rat Island in Alaska, but we don’t know how many more were contaminated with rodenticide and are handicapped by sub-lethal effects. 

Source: Beyond Pesticides

Temporary Results

One of many reasons the mouse eradication project on the Farallon Islands is controversial is that similar projects all over the world are not successful.  Some are not successful in the short run and are immediately done again. Lehua is one of the Hawaiian Islands on which extermination was attempted and failed.  An evaluation of that attempt was published in 2011 to determine the cause of the failure so that a subsequent attempt would be more successful.  That evaluation included this report on the success of similar attempts all over the world:  “An analysis of 206 previous eradication attempts against five species of rodents on islands using brodifacoum or diphacinone is presented in an appendix to this report. For all methods, 19.6% of 184 attempts using brodifacoum failed, while 31.8% of 22 attempts using diphacinone failed. The Farallons project plans to use brodifacoum. 

Some are not successful in the long run.  Rodenticides were aerial bombed on the Lord Howe Islands in Australia in 2019 at a cost of $16 million. Two years later, two rats (one male and one pregnant female) have been found.  Genetic tests will determine if they arrived from elsewhere or are descendants of the original population. An article in The Guardian explains the elaborate effort on Lord Howe to find new rats and exterminate them.  This strategy might work on an inhabited island, such as Lord Howe, but it is not an effective strategy on the Farallons because it is not inhabited, has only occasional visitors, and its steep, rocky terrain is not easily monitored.  New mice or rats could be undetected on the Farallons long before anyone would know it. 

This is an example of one of the fundamental truths of the “restoration” industry:  The work is NEVER done.  It must be done repeatedly.  The cost is daunting, the collateral damage to non-target animals often unacceptable, the results only temporary.  The cost-benefit ratio is unfavorable.

Ethical considerations

For the record, I would like to clearly state my objection to the Farallons project.  I consider it unethical to kill one species of animal based on a presumed benefit to another animal species.  In this case, the chosen scapegoat is considered a non-native animal that has lived on the Farallon Islands for nearly 200 years and is therefore fully integrated into the food web.  There are hundreds of thousands of sea birds and mammals living on the Farallons.  They are the best testament to the fact that mice have not been harmful to birds and other animals on the Farallons.

Hundreds of non-target animals will be killed by this project because of the toxicity of the rodenticide and the random manner in which it will be applied on the island.  The project will clearly do a great deal of harm to all life on the Farallons and its benefits are obscure at best. Please do not endorse this pointless, deadly project.   

“The mouse eradication project on the Farallon Islands: The ‘con’ in conservation”

We are republishing the following article published by Huffington Post on January 7, 2013, with permission of the author, Maggie Sergio.  Maggie has done some impressive research about the appalling project to aerial bomb the Farallon Islands with rodenticides to kill mice.  We shudder to think about how many other animals will be killed by this project.  Please sign the petition to US Fish and Wildlife to abandon this horrible plan.  The petition is available HERE.


I first heard the term “island eradication” back in 2011, when a colleague sent me an email that contained a project scoping notice from U.S. Fish & Wildlife (USFWS), San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex. This public notice announced a non-native mouse eradication project for the Farallon Islands, which are located 27 miles off the coast of San Francisco. The solemn tone of his words — “Have you seen this?” — quickly caught my attention.

As I read the document I couldn’t believe what was being contemplated. USFWS wants to use helicopters to drop 1.3 metric tons of brodifacoum (in the form of loose rat poison pellets) over the Farallon Islands, an area that has been designated as a National Wildlife Refuge. Nonnative mice are the issue. The ashy storm-petrel, a seabird that is considered aspecies of special concern, is being indirectly impacted by the presence of mice.

Photo of ashy storm-petrel courtesy of Wikipedia images. Photo taken by Duncan Wright

It is Fish and Wildlife’s assumption that the population of the ashy storm-petrel, a bird that is naturally a slow breeder, would recover if the mice could be eliminated. The rationale being used is that the mice are the food source that attracts an average of six burrowing owls–which also eat petrels–to the Farallon Islands every year. USFWS scientists believe the burrowing owls are staying longer than they normally would if the mice were not there. It is believed that the owls show up to feast on the mice when the mouse population spikes during the fall and early winter. The burrowing owl is also a species of special concern.

Photo of burrowing owl courtesy of Wikipedia images. Photo taken by Dori Merr
When the mouse population dips during the winter months, the few burrowing owls that remain on the island can, and do, turn to eating the chicks of the ashy storm-petrel. In reading the data provided by USFWS, I found it very interesting that out of 1,618 prey items analyzed in 679 owl pellets, only 82 storm-petrels were found. Based on the data from USFWS the majority of the owls’ diet appears to be invertebrates and mice.

It is important to add that the owls are not the only animals consuming the ashy storm-petrel chicks. Western gulls, one of the most opportunistic birds I have ever worked with as a wildlife rehabilitator, also consume ashy storm-petrel chicks. I can’t help but wonder when the Western gulls or any other species on the Farallones will be targeted next by USFWS in this unsettling fable of environmental ethics that pitches one species of animal against another.

If this 1.3 metric ton poison drop is allowed to move forward, thousands of wild animals will be inhumanely poisoned, and in turn, those killed become a poisoned food source for other animals. This is how the food web becomes contaminated. Since USFWS is chartered with the mission to protect ALL living resources within the public trust, the casual tone conveyed by this agency regarding collateral damage and “non-target species” is deplorable and unacceptable. I reached out to USFWS and asked for a comment with respect to that mission and how this project is contradictory. I have yet to receive a response.

There is also the potential for long term damage to the environment. Sub lethal impacts of anticoagulant rodenticides on wildlife are a threat that has the potential to impact future generations of birds, fish, sea lions, elephant seals, raptors, sharks, insects, crabs and other marine life. If the poison does not kill them outright, it can affect their behavior, reproduction, and survivability. Information on sub lethal poisoning was completely bypassed in the revised draft environmental impact statement (RDEIS) released this past October. Page 139 contains the statement that “Adverse effects as a result of possible sub-lethal exposure are unknown for brodifacoum or diphacinone.” The EPA also makes mention of this omission on page 11 of their 18 page comment letter found here

Information on sub lethal impacts of anticoagulants is readily available to anyone with access to the internet and web browser. This report tells the story of a dog exposed to brodifacoum at one point in her life, though her owners don’t know when, as this dog never displayed any acute symptoms of exposure. This dog was bred and the result was eight of her eleven puppies died soon after birth. Three were necropsied. Two of the puppies were found to be bleeding internally and brodifacoum was detected in the livers of two of the dead puppies. This is how brodifacoum and other anticoagulant rodenticides work. After animals ingest the poison, the animal bleeds to death because the active ingredient interferes with the blood’s natural ability to clot. This is the type of scientific documentation that is required to be disclosed in an environmental impact statement. The exclusion of this critical information equates to “cherry picking” of science. What happened to this dog has the potential to be replicated by a number of species that live in, or close to the fragile ecosystem of the Farallon Islands, if brodifacoum or other anticoagulants were to be aerially broadcast across the terrain.

Here’s the really scary thing. If this same event were to occur in nature as the result of brodifacoum permeating the food chain, the public and scientific community would not even be aware of it since the post project monitoring does not include monitoring for the presence of rodenticides or residues in the environment, except for intertidal invertebrates and then ONLY ‘If greater than negligible bait drift into the marine environment is detected.” (pg. 72 of the DEIS)

I started researching island eradication projects over two years ago and quickly learned of what happened on Rat Island in Alaska, a previous rodent eradication project that resulted in the poisoning of at least 46 bald eagles and over 420 seabirds. I found this highly critical report written by the Ornithological Council of USFWS and Island Conservation, and thisstory by Nature magazine.

I also received several emails urging me to investigate what was happening with the eradication project at Palmyra Atoll, which is located about 1000 miles from Hawaii. I have since learned that the eradication attempt at Palmyra Atoll resulted in bait getting into the water and fish becoming a contaminated food supply. The final report is available here.

first wrote about this topic for the Huffington Post back in 2011, after members of the public were denied the opportunity to make public comments at the first public scoping meeting held in Fort Mason, San Francisco in May of 2011. We were given a presentation by the officials about the problem of non-native mice on the island, and the indirect impact these mice were having on the ashy storm-petrel, the farallon arboreal salamander, and the caramel cricket. We learned that an environmental impact statement was underway and that USFWS had engaged with two partners for this project; Island Conservation andPRBO (now Point Blue Conservation Science). After a presentation on how these projects are carried out and why one is needed at the Farallon Islands, we were divided into groups and sent to separate corners of the large room. Without a doubt, this was a technique for crowd control. There was a healthy turnout of concerned citizens and most were shocked and opposed at the prospect of using helicopters to carpet bomb the Farallones with a type of rat poison (brodifacoum) that has come under heavy scrutiny from the EPA and the California Dept of Pesticide Regulation.

In each of the room corners were representatives from USFWS, Island Conservation and Point Blue Bird Science. They had flip charts and wrote down questions, concerns and suggestions. In speaking with one representative from USFWS, I raised the question of other animals being poisoned in the process, something continually referred to as “non-target species.” The response was casual and dismissive. “Nobody likes it, but it happens” one USFWS employee shrugged.

Conflict of Interest
Fast forward to the fall of 2013 and a 741 page Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIS) is released. Written by Island Conservation under two Cooperative Agreements found here, and here. The creation of the environmental impact statement netted the Santa Cruz based nonprofit a total of $481,883. Island Conservation is also the contractor that will get the eradication business if the decision is made to move forward with this project. And since Island Conservation is a registered 501c3, income earned from eradication projects is tax free. Details surrounding the financial relationship between Island Conservation and USFWS didn’t surface until I asked Gerry McChesney, USFWS Refuge Manager for the Farallon Islands, how much Island Conservation has been paid to write the environmental impact statement. My request was handled under the Freedom of Information Act.

The blatant conflict of interest is disturbing, but what angers me is that it took my questioning before this information became public knowledge. Island Conservation has been paid $481,883 by USFWS to write the environmental impact statement for an eradication project they will be awarded worth approximately 1.3 million dollars. This explains the end result of a highly biased and misleading environmental impact statement.

According to NEPA’s (National Environmental Policy Act) rules of engagement, financial interests of parties involved need to be disclosed in the environmental impact statement. This is something the EPA pointed out in their lengthy comment letter dated 12/09/13.

” In our scoping comments, we raised potential conflict of interest issues if Island Conservation were to prepare the impact assessment and also carry out the eradication project. Since the DEIS does not include the disclosure statement, required by 40 CFR 1506.5(c), specifying that Island Conservation has no financial or other interest in the outcome of the project, it is unclear whether this issue has been addressed.” ~ EPA comment letter on the Farallones mouse eradication project, 12/09/13

Speaking of the EPA…..When they write an 18 Page Comment Letter with Concerns, We Need to Listen

This letter dated 12/09/13 from the EPA identified the numerous issues the EPA has with the draft environmental impact statement. What is unfortunate is that the EPA has no jurisdiction to stop this project. Only to give opinion and point out any potential NEPA violations, such as the conflict of interest issue.

The tone of the EPA’s letter was serious and expressed great concern about this project moving forward. Points raised by the EPA include the fact that the amount of bait proposed for use violates federal law, that predictions with respect to the success of hazing of wildlife are overly optimistic and do not mention how hazing activities would affect the mice, and fails to include any information about the failures of several previous island eradication projects.

“Much information can be obtained from previous rodent eradication attempts and it is not clear that lessons learned from these projects have been integrated into the planning for the proposed project. We are aware that three recent rodent eradication attempts – Wake Atoll, Henderson Island, and Desecheo Island – have failed. These efforts all attempted to eradicate rat species. The Wake Atoll Rat Eradication Review concluded that planning and associated research did not seem to adequately address some of the key issues and the general complexities of the project, and that the number of information gaps noted during the planning process should have led to serious consideration of postponing the project until those issues were more fully addressed. This is our main concern for the Farallon project.” ~ EPA comment letter, 12/09/13

Retired USFWS Biologist Weighs In
Biologist Sonce DeVries recently retired from USFWS after 22 years. During her tenure as Acting IPM Coordinator from 2010-2012, she reviewed proposals for a number of island eradication projects. While she fully agrees that invasive species are an issue that need to be addressed, she feels strongly that the approach that has been used in the past by USFWS and Island Conservation is not the way to do it. Her six page comment letter found herereflects many of the same concerns I have regarding the inaccurate and misleading science behind this proposed project.

“My review of the references cited in this DEIS shows that some significant misinterpretations of the original references have occurred. The authors of this environmental impact statement must accurately quote the scientific literature and not insert words or phrases that imply or state a different conclusion from that of the original reference being cited. While the DEIS states that no choice of alternatives has been made, the text clearly indicates that the reader is being strongly encouraged to select Alternative B, the use of Brodifacoum as the preferred alternative. Well written EISs go to great lengths to present a completely neutral discussion of the facts and allow the reviewer to reach their own conclusions. The DEIS does not meet that requirement.” ~ Sonce DeVries, retired biologist and former Acting IPM Coordinator, USFWS.

The Ocean Foundation
Richard Charter is a Senior Fellow with The Ocean Foundation and Vice Chair of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. When it comes to protecting our oceans and marine life, Richard is a seasoned advocate on issues such as marine spatial planning and the prevention and mitigating of industrial impacts on ocean ecosystems. His environmental work has helped to create the Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell BankChannel Islands and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries.

Richard has many concerns about the proposed project that he outlined in this four page comment letter here from the Ocean Foundation. Richard has a wealth of experience surrounding Natural Resource Damages Assessments (NRDA) and has requested that USFWS and/or Island Conservation post a surety bond in the event of accidental rat poison spills into the ocean (which occurred during a New Zealand project) and the inevitable deaths of non-target animals due to exposure to brodifacoum.

“The Revised DEIS is inadequate in reflecting a casual and dismissive attitude throughout the document regarding the inevitable mortality of public trust living resources, such as numerous non-target species, including birds and marine life, in a manner which hardly presents a fairly-considered cost-benefit analysis. Throughout the DEIS the document instead attempts to rationalize the unnecessary killing of a lot of innocuous wildlife in the process of eradication of one species – the mice – but the document provides no conclusive evidence that the Ashy Storm Petrel will benefit over the long term from all of this collateral damage throughout the overall ecosystem.” ~ Richard Charter, Senior Fellow, The Ocean Foundation.

American Bird Conservancy
American Bird Conservancy is the only bird conservation organization that hasn’t been drinking the USFWS/Island Conservation Kool-Aid about this proposed project. I think they are the only birding group that took the time to read and think critically about what USFWS wants to do. Below is a quote from the ten page comment letter submitted last month.

“American Bird Conservancy is concerned about the tenuous and indirect connection between the stated goals of the Project and the proposed means of achieving them. The conclusions in the RDEIS are founded on what we deem to be a faulty and incomplete analysis. We are concerned about poisoning the Farallon food web, including migrating raptors, sea birds, native terrestrial species, and marine mammals, and about what we consider an unacceptable level of projected incidental mortality of Western Gulls. We are also worried about the potential to cause long-term damage to the very practice of eradication of non-native mammals from islands. Related concerns include, but are not limited to, the inflated projection of effectiveness of gull hazing operations, the inadequate consideration of alternative methods of bait delivery, the biased selection of modeling assumptions, the exclusion of data from Rat Island, the under-estimation of brodifacoum toxicity, and the unorthodox and potentially biased risk assessment assumptions for diphacinone.” ~ George H. Fenwick, PhD, American Bird Conservancy

Dolphins and Penguins Die Following Drops in New Zealand
To better understand what happens with island eradication projects, watch this news report which tells what happened on two islands in New Zealand after brodifacoum was aerially dropped over two islands. Notice how Richard Griffiths with the New Zealand Department of Conservation dances around the repeated question with respect to the testing of dead dolphins and penguins for exposure to brodifacoum. Richard is now employed by Island Conservation.

Despite the critical data and the many voices of opposition, USFWS may still decide to move forward. My plea to USFWS is to remember the work of one of their own most influential biologists, Rachel Carson. Her revolutionary book, Silent Spring, published in 1962, sounded the alarm about the environmental impacts of pesticides and the penetrating influence the chemical industry has on commercial agriculture. Fifty two years later, the dominion of the pesticide industry continues and has now expanded beyond the confines of agriculture to include invasive species as another market opportunity to exploit. With respect to the South Farallon Islands Mouse Eradication Project, this is the “con” in conservation.

Update:  The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the mouse eradication project on the Farallon Islands was published on March 15, 2019.  The Final Environmental Impact Statement recommends the original plan as the “preferred alternative.”  In other words, despite intense opposition to this plan, its implementation is now eminent. 

No public comments are allowed on a Final Environmental Impact Statement, so there’s nothing further we can say about what seems to be an unnatural disaster in the making.  At this stage of a project, lawsuits are the only way to stop it.  I don’t know if anyone is willing and able to sue.