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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