From the beginning of January, farms with Marijuana covering the Santa Cruz Mountains will get into new legal territory; ecologists are concerned that it may be a bad thing for the mountain lions dwelling there.
The Santa Cruz Mountains have been home to the lions for a thousand years. As pointed out by Chris Wilmer an ecologist at UC Santa Cruz and the head of Puma Project, the effects brought by humans example being cultivation of Marijuana in the redwoods would not only impact the lions but all wildlife. He pointed out that this new trend would be the most threatening of all to the mountain lions since they began their study in 2008.
Wilmer addressed two of his concerns. If cultivation of cannabis was increased in the mountains, there would be increased infrastructure and human form, this would easily lead to the lions abandoning large territories of what used to be their habitat. He also worried that there would be an increase in the use of anticoagulant rodenticides. This can easily interfere with the immune system of the lions and are dangerous in large amounts.
There is a downside to the little grower growth. Early indications suggest that there might not be an increase in the number of growers.This is because there is need for one to prove their stay in Santa Cruz for more than three years according to the current licensing system as well as a few more requirements
The licensing manager Robin Bolster-Grant indicated that the environmental impact report had regulations that had set the standards so high that he expected the number of growers to shrink; this is because the cost of ensuring standards are achieved was rather high.
Wilmer pointed out that those regulations could still increase land under Marijuana cultivation even if there were no new entrants. The initial plan is to have wide roads, and sufficient water tanks in case of fire outbreak. He also noted that adding infrastructure could drive away the lions on a permanent basis. It could also hinder the movement of other wildlife which includes bobcats and deer.
Laurel Serieys an ecologist at UC Santa Cruz noted that the anticoagulant rodenticides can lead to the eventual death of other predators. This is because it can take up to 11 days for a rodent to die of poison. In this period, if it goes back to the forest and becomes food to a predator, this would translate to the death of the predator.
There has been a ban on toxic rodenticides from Californian store; this has however not deterred the illegal transfer of the same from different states which has led to exposure of the same to the mountain lions. In Bonny Doon, a healthy gray fox died as residents watched in 2016 a few feet away from a Marijuana growing operation. It was taken to a lab and its liver tested. They found four types of anticoagulant rodenticides. There is concern that the ban on use of rodenticides might be difficult to follow through.
Wilmer pointed out that whether it’s official or not, regulation of hundreds of such operations would be difficult. People always have a way of concealing such or might just use them at night when there is no regulator on site. Bolster-Grant the coordinator tasked with enforcement of the regulations pointed out that they had promised the residents of Santa Cruz that they will deliver a great enforcement strategy.
She stated that she was hopeful that clear laws, unexpected inspections, and availability of resources will help rectify the situation. The state would also avail its own measures of compliance which would in turn help curb illegal growing
No application of chemical
Pat Malo, a co-founder of the Marijuana business coalition Green Trade Santa Cruz noted that it was unclear how many growers could be using the rodenticides, but that in the past it was majorly used by growers who were unethical.
Hezekiah Allen who is an Executive director of California growers, an advocacy group, added that there needed to be an all-around regulatory climate which would be the best opportunity of making sure that growers do not use chemicals that would be harmful. Allen also noted that agriculture always has impacts on the environment, but when unregulated, they are worse. Regulations in this case would reduce on such.