CSUB community enraged by squirrel fumigation

Kiara Zabala, Outreach and Recruitment


Photo by Yesica Valenzuela / The Runner

After an outcry from the faculty and students at California State University, Bakersfield about the actions taken to control the rodent population on campus, the Facilities Management Department has halted its process of gassing the squirrel burrows and is holding listening sessions this month.  

The first ecosystem listening session will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Student Union Multipurpose Room and also online. This first session is for students only. 

The biggest issue is whether or not CSUB violated The Endangered Species Act by potentially harming kit foxes who use squirrel and gopher burrows. 

“CDFW is aware of the situation and is gathering information,” said Abigail Gwinn, wildlife biologist at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

With CSUB attempting to control the squirrel population, the school must also make sure not to harm the endangered species of kit foxes that preside on campus.  

Back in the beginning of March, eyewitness statements started to come in with reports of hoses being fed underground that were pumping gas into the rodent burrows in attempts to control the CSUB squirrel population.  

Within the next couple weeks after the initial reports, a meeting was held by Associated Students Inc. that talked about the way Facilities was choosing to try to control the squirrel population, which allowed students and ASI members to speak up on this issue.  

After that Friday ASI meeting, students received a message the following Tuesday morning from the school, stating how all population control would be paused until further notice after hearing the concerned voices. 

“Any person who knowingly violates any provision … of this Act, may be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of not more than $ 25,000 for each violation,” according to the Endangered Species Act from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 

Faculty and students keeping up with the squirrel situation are also wondering how the burrowing rodent population was affected as the squirrel sightings have become less frequent than they were before the gassings from Facilities took place.  

Joseph D. Hedges, associate vice president of Capital Planning & Design and Facilities Management Services, said the rodent population is remerging. 

“Recently, new ground-burrowing rodent holes have emerged (ground squirrels and moles) in areas that were treated before we paused the control program. There are also new and growing holes on our athletic fields as a result of the pause in control efforts,” wrote Joe Hedges in a response written to The Runner by Jennifer Self, senior director of Strategic Communications and the Public Information Officer. 

CSUB Facilities has decided to hold off on any squirrel management procedures until further notice.   

Business and Administrative Services sent out a memorandum in an email to the CSUB community on March 21. This memorandum was in response to the discussion on campus about Facilities’ approach to managing the burrowing-rodent population.  

Photo by Yesica Valenzuela / The Runner

“At California State University, Bakersfield, we take our ecosystem very seriously. In recent days, concerns have been raised about the system we use to control burrowing-rodents on campus. Out of respect for the voices we have heard, we are pausing our efforts to control the ground-squirrel population,” wrote Thom Davis, vice president and chief financial officer.  

Davis also wrote in the memorandum that over the next few weeks, CSUB will host sessions to listen to any concerns and further questions from the campus community. More information about the sessions will become available within the next coming days. The goal of these sessions is to come to a conclusion that makes all members of the campus community satisfied.  

This decision to pause burrowing-rodent population control comes just a few days after an ASI meeting where the main topic of discussion was the fumigation carried out by Facilities.  

During the ASI meeting on March 17, students and faculty emphasized that they would not have had such a big problem with how Facilities is choosing to approach maintenance towards the ground squirrel population if they had been transparent with the CSUB community about their actions from the start.    

Instead of being informed by email, information about the actions of Facilities was spread through eyewitness reports.   

Self and Hedges attended the meeting on behalf of Facilities as a way to facilitate a conversation between ASI and Facilities.   

Self and Hedges both answered questions following a presentation that they gave, stating that the ground squirrels’ burrows have caused injuries to different members of the campus. The squirrels also have damaged athletic fields, irrigation systems, and communication lines, further affecting the spaces that can be used on campus.   

Students and faculty shared that they did not believe that the usage of the Pressurized Exhaust Rodent Controller (PERC) with 2.5% carbon monoxide was necessary and called for a more humane way to control the squirrel population.  

Additionally, community members expressed that they did not believe that Facilities was being entirely truthful and transparent about where the fumigation attempts occurred, causing these community members to worry about the endangered kit foxes that also reside in burrows on campus.  

The concerns from the campus community arose due to an email thread started by the Campus Sustainability Committee on March 2 after eyewitnesses first spotted Facilities’ fumigation.  

Lucas K. Hall, assistant professor of biology, discussed how population management of the squirrel population on campus can upset the balance of the urban ecosystem of CSUB. A reduction of ground squirrels as prey for kit foxes can affect the food supply for the kit foxes, potentially harming the fragile ecosystem, said Hall.  

The petition “Protection of the Endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox and their Prey at CSU Bakersfield” started by ASI Director of Sustainability, Sara Alame, has circulated online on change.org and has received nearly 2000 signatures within two weeks.