Three species added to do-not-feed list
PLACERVILLE – Add raccoons, opossums and skunks to the list of wildlife that residents aren’t allowed to feed.
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors passed an urgency ordinance Tuesday identifying six species as a possible threat to the public by the state Fish and Game Committee. The board’s response comes on the heels of two harrowing incidents in recent months.
Residents can no longer feed coyotes, mountain lions, bears and smaller animals such as skunks and raccoons. Supervisor Ray Nutting asked the board to exclude raccoons from the list but board members reminded him that two state commissions recommended the masked bandits be included.
First-time offenders will have to pay a small, undetermined fine and a second violation will be a misdemeanor and an increased penalty. El Dorado District Attorney Gary Lacy said the new law won’t put any added burden on his department – or so he hopes.
“My best guess is that this will be fairly minor on our workload,” he said. “It depends on the aggressiveness by residents and the Animal Control Board. Most likely this ordinance will be used as an education tool.”
Uproar over feeding wild animals reached a fever pitch in February when a 4-year-old girl was mauled by a coyote near Heavenly Ski Resort on Feb. 17. Lauren Bridges received more than 30 puncture wounds to her head and neck before a South Lake Tahoe police officer shot and killed the animal. A state laboratory reported that the coyote wasn’t infected with rabies.
A letter submitted to the board by United States Department of Agriculture State Director Gary Simmons said most of the coyote attacks the department has dealt with involve people directly feeding the animal or leaving open garbage cans.
“Many forms of wildlife are potentially damaging or even present direct safety threats to the public when concentrated in close proximity with people,” Simmons said.
An incident on Feb. 26 involving a bear which ate pounds of dog food at a home near Nez Perce Drive put Fish and Game officials on alert. A neighbor on Tehama Drive reportedly left food for the bear. It was trapped and taken to a Sacramento facility where it was examined and later euthanized.
Fifth District Supervisor John Upton said once the two incidents were publicized, his phone was ringing off the hook. He said he received reports of mountain lions and bears roaming city streets near schools and parks.
“There was an abundance of testimony from the public that showed feeding wild animals wasn’t a good thing,” Upton said. “Feeding the wildlife can create a problem for any residential neighborhood.”
The smaller species were included on the list because of the potential diseases they can carry. Skunks are temperamental animals and can be easily agitated while raccoons, with their sharp claws and penchant for exploring trash cans, can be extremely vicious and sometimes carry rabies.
If residents come in contact with any of the six animals prohibited in the ordinance, they should avoid them due to disease or possible attack. Some of the diseases that affect humans include:
n Rabies – an acute viral infection that attacks the central nervous system usually transmitted by a bite. Symptoms include delirium and painful muscle spasms in the throat.
n Lyme Disease – a bacterial infection which affects the respiratory system. Tick bites from deer or other animals measure only 1/16 of an inch and are hard to detect. The tick is most active in the spring and fall, and people should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Applying insect repellent works as well.
n Tularemia – a micro-organism that can be found in infected drinking water, uncooked meat and insect or tick bites. Rabbits and muskrats are the primary carriers and symptoms include headaches, vomiting and the infection develops into an ulcer. Glands at the elbow or armpit become enlarged and painful.
n Swimmer’s Itch – a parasite with a complex life cycle which penetrates the skin of swimmers or others that come in contact with infected water.
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