Monday, 9 November 2015

Illegal marijuana farms continue to threaten fishers in California

Deaths caused by poisoning jumps more than 200 percent

Date:  November 4, 2015
Source:  USDA Forest Service - Pacific Southwest Research Station

Fisher (animal).jpgThe relatively rare, forest-dwelling fisher is increasingly becoming the innocent victim of illegal marijuana farms in forested lands in California. According to a recently published study in the journal PLOS One, researchers found that the annual rate of poisoning deaths of fishers (Pekania pennant) rose 233 percent compared to a study in 2012. The toxicants were discovered to be associated with illegal marijuana farms on public and tribal lands in Northern and Southern California.

Previous studies showed that rat poisons were being found in the tissues of this cat-sized relative of the weasel family when they were in proximity of illegal marijuana cultivation sites in rugged portions of Northern California and the southern Sierra Nevada. This new study examined the deaths of 167 fishers -- 129 of which cause of death was determined -- and revealed that:

Northern California fishers were five times more likely to die from poisoning than predation compared to fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada;

Overall, male fishers were 13 times more likely to die of poisoning than predation compared to females. This is potentially due to the large movements made by male fishers during the spring breeding season, when growers' use of rodenticides peaks;

Eight-five percent of fishers showed exposure to rat poison, and fishers were, on average, exposed to multiple types of poison;

Poisoning accounted for 10 percent of all documented fisher mortalities;

New, never-before seen rodenticides -- cholecalciferol and bromethalin -- were the cause of death in two cases.

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