Date of this Version
I would like to discuss with you the reason why agricultural commissioners are in the poison bait business. The following are excerpts from the Agricultural Code of the State of California. Section 100 describes a pest as follows: "Pest means any of the following that is, or is liable to be dangerous or detrimental to the agricultural industry of this State" and for the purpose of this talk only part two of this section is cited which states, "any form of animal life." This is the part which covers vertebrate pests. Section 102 states, "Each commissioner is an enforcing officer of all laws, rules and regulations relative to the prevention of the introduction into or spread within the State of pests and as to such activities is under the supervision of the director." (Director means the Director of the California State Department of Agriculture.) Section 129 states, "The commissioner, whenever he deems it necessary, may enter and make an inspection of any premises, plant, conveyance or thing in his jurisdiction and if found infested or infested with a pest, etc., etc. - - -." This section and following sections provide the means by which abatement proceedings are carried out. To further facilitate the control of vertebrate pests, County Boards of Supervisors authorized their agricultural commissioners to prepare poison baits and sell them at cost and in some instances distribute them at no cost. This has been a common procedure since 1917 when the State Law prescribed rodent control as a specific function of the established agricultural regulatory set-up. Since 1917 large quantities of poison baits have been prepared. The 1920 Annual Report of the California Department of Agriculture states that counties in that year used 928,538 pounds of strychnine bait for ground squirrel control. The agricultural commissioners have prepared and distributed an average of almost a million pounds of various poison baits per year. In addition to ground squirrels, baits are prepared for Kangaroo rats, meadow mice, rats, gophers, muskrats, jackrabbits and depredating birds. Bait mixing equipment remained quite simple for a number of years and consisted primarily of a rectangular box and a square nose shovel. In recent years there has been a replacement of hand mixing to mechanical mixers.