Campus community discusses squirrel population control methods during ASI meeting

Kiara Zabala, Outreach and Recruitment

Members of the California State University, Bakersfield community gathered to discuss the squirrel population control methods that Facilities has been using during the Associated Students Inc. meeting on March 17. 

Students and faculty emphasized that they would not have had such a big issue with how Facilities is choosing to approach maintenance towards the squirrel population and its effects on the kit fox population if they had been transparent with their actions from the start.  

Usually, students, faculty, and staff receive emails about anything that is happening on their campus, but no email or information of any kind was sent out. Instead, information about the actions of Facilities was spread through eyewitness reports. 

Jennifer Self, senior director of Strategic Communications and Public Information Officer, and Joe Hedges, associate vice president of Capital Planning & Design and Facilities Management Services, attended the meeting on behalf of Facilities to give a presentation and answer questions and concerns they heard throughout the last couple weeks. 

“[The] first priority at CSUB is the health and safety of our community,” said Self. 

Self said that with the squirrel population on campus being so high, many problems arise, such as holes that cause injuries to those on campus, and ground squirrels carrying diseases that can infect people through contact.  

The squirrels also have damaged athletic fields, irrigation systems and communication lines. The holes from these creatures have additionally limited space for events on campus. 

Self and Hedges also addressed the lack of transparency between Facilities and members of the campus. Self said she understood that even though she may be aware that this process of population control takes place often, not everyone at CSUB is used to this routine. 

“[Facilities are] not trying to exterminate the population… just trying to control it,” said Self. 

Tania Salazar, a freshmen liberal studies major, is urging Facilities for a safer solution that doesn’t involve gassing the squirrels. Salazar also asked for a more humane way to control the squirrel population than what Facilities has been doing. 

Along with Salazar, other members of the CSUB community chose to speak up during public comment.  

The anonymous Instagram account @csub_squirrelz wrote in the comment section of the Zoom meeting: “We the students concerned for the wellbeing of the natural world surrounding us are disappointed and upset at how the university and Facilities are taking action for population control of the squirrels.” 

When asked what happens to the bodies of the deceased squirrels, Hedges said that the holes are filled in with dirt and the deceased squirrels are left in place.  

Numerous members in attendance of the ASI meeting were not satisfied with Self and Hedges answers, like Antje Lauer, biology professor, who addressed both Hedges and Self personally. 

Lauer said Self and Hedges were lying about the actions against the squirrels. Lauer was upset with the lack of communication between Facilities and the rest of campus.  

“This has to be stated up openly. It’s upsetting not just me, but the entire science departments that are talking about it. It’s something we don’t want,” said Lauer. 

The kit fox population is another reason that the people of CSUB are discussing about population control methods.  

Self and Hedges both said that CSUB’s method of gassing does not harm humans or kit foxes. Furthermore, they said that most kit fox dens are located away from rodent-related holes. All known dens of kit foxes are marked and protected. 

“Nobody actually knew what was going on. This whole situation with the kit foxes and the squirrel fumigation was detected accidentally. You know, imagine if we would not have even seen it,” said Lauer. 

Lauer questioned Self and Hedges’ awareness of the impact that the chosen squirrel control methods have on the CSUB community.  

Self said that she understands that there is passion behind this entire situation as people do genuinely care about the kit foxes and squirrels on campus. She said that the Facilities team is taking the correct measures in making sure that kit foxes are not harmed in the process of fumigation. 

“I am not aware that our reputation has been damaged. I just don’t know that it has been,” said Self. 

Self and Hedges stated that they are open to any questions or concerns that members of the community have regarding this situation.