The City Council’s Finance Committee got an earful of big digits regarding the costs of controlling pests and weeds in city parks without chemicals. According to Park Superintendent Santos Escobar, the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program would cost the Parks Department $145,000 this year and $260,000 the next. The increases are due to higher labor costs; according to one estimate, it takes eight hours to do pest-free what can be accomplished in one hour with pesticides. Escobar also raised another concern about IPM, namely that it would be no match for the squirrels who burrow into the cliffs of Shoreline Park. “We still have to worry about bubonic plague,” he said. Councilmember Das Williams—who championed the program—suggested establishing roosts for owls and hawks, while Councilmember Helene Schneider suggested gopher snakes. But Escobar said the squirrel population would easily overwhelm the appetites of even the most ravenous predators. For the time being, he said, the city is baiting squirrel traps with a green pesticide that causes squirrels’ stomachs to “blow up.” Even such gastrointestinal pyrotechnics may not be enough, Escobar warned; the city may need to use traditional rodenticides.

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