December 9, 2013
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San Mateo County
residents are facing increased wildlife problems, including property damage
and health issues, that need to be addressed on a county-wide level. The
Board of Supervisors needs to develop and implement a comprehensive plan
to assist residents through public education and information, and provide
animal control services beyond what is currently available. The plan should
provide for the pooling of information among departments and special districts
to monitor animal population and health risks.
San Mateo County effectively manage wildlife, specifically deer, raccoons,
skunks, and opossums?
In response to
anecdotal information and homeowner groups' complaints regarding raccoon
damage and related health concerns, the Grand Jury investigated wildlife
issues in the county and how they are being addressed by public agencies.
Wildlife specifically covered by this investigation are deer, raccoons,
skunks, and opossums.
In the early 1990s,
for budgetary reasons San Mateo County dropped its agreement with state
and federal agencies that had been providing wildlife and animal control
services. Since that time, the County has performed limited services using
and assistance regarding a wildlife nuisance is available from several
sources. Animal control services are contracted out to the Peninsula Humane
Society (PHS). The contract is overseen by the County Environmental Services
Department. The contracted services are limited to picking up dead and
injured animals. Residents must pay PHS to have dead animals removed from
private property in most jurisdictions. PHS provides information about
deterring nuisance wildlife to people who request assistance.
A vector is an organism
that transmits a disease. The Mosquito Abatement District has responsibility
for vector born diseases including Lyme disease and raccoon roundworm
within its jurisdiction. Its jurisdiction is not county-wide. The District
recently started gathering information about the raccoon population and
the incidence of raccoon roundworm. It has a pamphlet available describing
the disease and how to cope with raccoon latrines. The District has a
limited public information and education plan.
The County Environmental
Health Department offers some assistance to residents who are having problems
with nuisance wildlife, such as raccoons, inside their homes. The department
gives technical advice regarding how to deter animal damage to homes and
will refer people to trappers for additional assistance.
have difficulty obtaining information and assistance when they seek help
with wildlife problems, particularly if they need assistance beyond the
information available from PHS about deterring wildlife.
with their mission, PHS web site states, "The first and best approach
to dealing with wildlife in urban environments is to practice tolerance
-- understanding and acceptance of the natural patterns of animal life
and respect and appreciation for wild animals." The web page provides
information about deterring wildlife. Their literature does not address
health issues or give information about removing animals from homes or
other animal control options including how to deal with individual animals
that have learned destructive behavior and are not easily deterred.
residents who use the phone book to access County services find that the
only listing is Animal Control. People calling the Animal Control phone
number for wildlife services are told that Animal Control officers will
not remove nuisance wildlife from property unless the animal is sick,
injured or, if it has come into contact with a person or companion animal.
People who call Animal Control for other information are directed to PHS.
populations are growing in urban areas of the County because of the increase
in favorable habitat, especially near the bay lagoons. PHS officials report
that many people intentionally feed wildlife while others inadvertently
make food available by not securing their pet food or garbage. Entire
neighborhoods can be impacted by the actions of a few people.
association has started addressing problems with wildlife and has done
a survey to determine the extent of raccoon damage in the community. Survey
respondents reported $46,000 damage to structures and landscaping.
Health and the Mosquito Abatement District monitor wildlife related health
issues in the County. The incidence of rabies and Lyme disease is small.
The Mosquito Abatement District has begun monitoring raccoon roundworm,
which infects the majority of raccoons in this area. Although only a few
human cases of raccoon roundworm have been documented in California, the
Mosquito Abatement District reports that accurate diagnosis is difficult
and the potential for infection may be high. The disease itself is a serious
health hazard. Children are especially susceptible since the infection
is spread to humans by ingesting or inhaling roundworm eggs. Several children
in California have been stricken. There is no known cure.
counties address wildlife issues in different ways. Some counties already
have or are drafting wildlife control policies. Thirty-eight counties
in California contract with the United States Department of Agriculture
Wildlife Service to assist with wildlife management and damage control
as well as the protection of endangered species. The federal government
contributes 27% toward the cost of providing the contracted services.
Most counties have two assigned wildlife specialists which costs each
county approximately $100,000 per year for personnel and overhead.
If one neighbor
feeds raccoons, another neighbor may end up with a raccoon infestation
or latrine. Given the limited and possible declining funds available
to the County, individuals in neighborhoods working in concert need
to be a major component in finding and implementing solutions. There
is no "quick fix."
The County has no
comprehensive plan in place to educate the public about nuisance wildlife
abatement or disease hazards. Various county departments have limited
information available, but there is no coordinated effort to increase
The County has no
systematic method of tracking urban wildlife populations or the damage
they cause and the health risks they present. The County has no effective
system of sharing information or of planning activities between the
county agencies involved.
No assistance is
available to homeowners who are unsuccessful in deterring destructive
wildlife or who are physically or financially limited and unable to
handle wildlife invasions of their homes or the damage caused by such