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Coot Flap Flocks to Council

Posted: January 26, 2008 4:01 a.m.
Updated: March 28, 2008 2:02 a.m.
Concerns over the fate of the American coot birds in Bridgeport's lake have made their way to the Santa Clarita City Council and two council members are looking to take it up with the federal government.

Residents recently alerted environmentalists that the Bridgeport homeowners association wanted to apply for a permit to kill some of the duck-like American coot birds living in Bridgeport's lake after homeowners complained of the birds pecking at their lawns and leaving droppings on the sidewalks.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records show the Bridgeport Community Association applied for permits in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 to be able to kill the coots that migrate each year from Alaska and Canada. Records revealed that the HOA killed 27 coots in 2003 after receiving a permit to kill 50. Residents have said the HOA recently voted to apply for another permit in the coming months.
Representatives from the HOA and the Valencia Management Group have yet to return recent calls from The Signal.
Environmentalist Teresa Savaikie told the council Tuesday the concern for the coots is part of a larger issue of homes being built too close to the Santa Clara River and residential areas overlapping wildlife habitat areas.
Savaikie, who is the coordinator for the Santa Clara River Alliance, said she was also concerned about the methods the homeowners might use to kill the birds.
The HOA's 2003 permit lists Chino-based Animal Pest Management as the agent authorized to kill the birds. According to a Fish and Wildlife service spokeswoman, the company is one of the few with a license to feed the birds corn laced with alpha chlorolose to tranquilize the birds for capture and then euthanize them by carbon dioxide inhalation.
Savaikie said the poison could disrupt the local ecology if other birds in the lake or in the nearby Santa Clara River eat the corn.
"I would like to see buffer zones bigger (near the river)," Savaikie said. "And no poison within 500 feet of the river."
Councilwoman Laurene Weste said killing the coots will have "an impact on our ecology here" and that the Fish and Wildlife office in Oregon that issues the permits does not know how killing the birds might impact Santa Clarita.
"If they are issuing it in Oregon, they have no idea what is going on in the Santa Clarita Valley," she said.
Referring to the controversial Cemex mine proposed in Soledad Canyon," Weste said, "that's like telling us we should have a cement mine in the middle of our city."
Weste recommended this week that the City Council send a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but since the item was not included on the meeting agenda, the council plans to revisit the matter at an upcoming council meeting.


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