Trapper gasses animals with carbon dioxide


September 17, 2010 12:00 AM


Raccoons have taken over a Goleta mobile home park and management responded by ordering a roundup, a move that could have spelled the animals’ demise.
But in response to inquiries from the News-Press and local wildlife rescue organizations, the trapping at Rancho Goleta Mobile Home Park, which was set to start Monday, was called off.
At a meeting Thursday night at the Ward Avenue park, the board decided to adopt less-than-lethal means to deal with the critters.
Instead of having the animals trapped and killed, the board decided to encourage residents to use garbage cans with locking lids among other measures.
“I think this is really positive,” Julia Di Sieno, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Animal Rescue Team Inc., told the News-Press late Thursday after addressing the board.
Before Thursday’s meeting, which saw some animal rescue representatives being asked to leave, La Cumbre Management Company had a different outcome planned for the park.
In a memo obtained by the News-Press, LCM informed residents of Rancho Goleta Mobile Home Park that it was taking the action of bringing in a trapper next week in response to “the proliferation of raccoons and other animals roaming the park at night and creating problems for residents.”
According to the memo that went out to residents last weekend, Andy “the Wildlife Trapper” Lockwood was to begin setting traps starting Monday in hopes of capturing unwanted animals.
State Fish and Game Trapping License guidelines state that when trapping for profit to alleviate animal damage, “a trapper must either euthanize a trapped animal or release it immediately on site.”
LCM officials wrote that, under those guidelines, animals captured as a result of the trapping must and will be destroyed.
The memo included a warning that residents keep cats and other pets inside so they don’t wind up in the traps and then get carted off to a local shelter.
The News-Press made repeated attempts to talk to LCM officials, but those efforts were unsuccessful.
The decision to take the trapping measures came after extensive discussion at two LCM board meetings on how to respond to the many complaints over raccoons in the park. In addition to rummaging through garbage at night in search of food, raccoons are a danger to local pets and have been known to attack cats and dogs, according to Mr. Lockwood’s website.
Furthermore, the website warns that raccoons in this area can be infected with several types of parasites and diseases, including roundworm. The roundworm known as Baylisascaris procyonis is a parasite that can cause blindness, neurological damage and even death in infected humans.
Mr. Lockwood says he only uses humane Havahart traps to capture and remove animals from private property. Havahart traps have smoothed internal edges to protect and prevent injuries to animals, and the brand markets itself as the most humane way to remove unwanted critters.
In a phone interview prior to Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Lockwood told the News-Press that he was hired to “pull the herd” from the area.
After inspecting the property at the request of LCM, and having come to the property in the past to handle animal problems for individual renters, Mr. Lockwood determined that the raccoon situation at Rancho Goleta has become severely out of hand and even dangerous for local pets and residents.
“Raccoons are extremely territorial animals that form gangs,” he said. “When they become overpopulated and exhaust sources of food and shelter in an area, they can become extremely aggressive and attack local animals, and attempt entrance into human homes.”
Mr. Lockwood said that he checks his Havahart traps “religiously, seven days a week” to make sure any captured animal is not left too long.
If he were to relocate the animals, Mr. Lockwood said they would probably return unless sent at least 25 miles away. Because of the pack nature and group dependency of these animals, he added, it would be irresponsible and inhumane to separate and relocate them to another environment not suited or prepared for an introduction of raccoons.
Once he traps raccoons and other animals in these situations, Mr. Lockwood said he destroys them by placing them in an airtight box and pumping carbon dioxide inside. A Fish and Game official said this form of euthanasia for raccoons and opossums is not specifically prohibited by law, and that carbon dioxide ventilation is a “historic practice of licensed trappers.”
Mr. Lockwood is one such trapper.
Had he been able to remove the animals, Mr. Lockwood said he planned to educate the residents on how to secure food and garbage from these types of animals, as well as on ways to cover the openings these animals use as shelter.
Aside from the removal, Mr. Lockwood said that he was not hired for additional measures to prevent the return of the animals.
He was not in attendance at Thursday’s meeting.
Ms. Di Sieno said earlier that while the Havahart traps are the most humane for animal removal, the initial measures undertaken by LCM would not eliminate the problem.
“If you remove the raccoons, opossums and skunks that live in that area, new specimens of the same species will return and recapitulate even more,” she told the News-Press.
Ms. Di Sieno attributes this resulting rise in population to the rise in rodent population that she expects would “go through the roof” when the rodents’ primary predators, opossums and skunks, are removed by the trapping service.
Tampering with the animal population, Ms. Di Sieno added, would have a detrimental effect on the area’s eco-system.
Instead of killing the animals, Ms. Di Sieno recommends introducing non-fatal deterrents where unwanted animals have made a home. These include putting mothballs, cayenne pepper or wet ammonia rags in crevices beneath mobile homes where animals have inhabited.
Such measures would not result in long-term harm to the animals, and could push them back to estuaries in the rural land near the park, she said. Education on responsible deterrents for unwanted animals can be found under the Education tab at ART’s website,
Diane Cannon, president of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, said the animals are acting as they do because of humans.
“These animals are there as the result of food left outside, insecure trash cans, and sheltered open areas left accessible to them under the mobile homes,” she said. “They mean no harm and if you solely trap and remove them, you still leave the open space and problems that will continue to attract the same animals.”
Nancy Callahan, director of WILD Education Services, a wilderness education organization, told the News-Press that she wished LCM had contacted a local wildlife protection or rescue group for a more humane means to answer residents’ complaints.
“They put out this memo, but need to go back to the drawing board,” she said. “Humane measures make so much more sense.”
According to Ms. Callahan, unless particles of the animal feces reach residents’ mouths, or only if individuals are directly handling the raccoons, the animals pose no greater threat to spread disease than any other common urban animals or pets.
As a result of the controversy, Ms. Callahan and the others were offered the opportunity to speak to the board on alternative measures to deal with the animal problem.
The outcome is just what they were hoping for.
A local OSH store is apparently ready to give park residents a 10 percent discount on locking garbage cans.
News-Press City Editor Scott Steepleton contributed to this report.

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