By Edward Ortiz
It was midday on Aug. 30, and the sun blazed over two undercover law enforcement officers as they entered an illegal pot farm. Like so many in the Central Valley, this farm was hidden in plain sight, a stone's throw from Interstate 5, near Galt.
The sweep revealed no humans, but enough d-CON strewn about to kill several rats.
It was a classic example of the environmental degradation caused by widespread, illegal pot farming on public land. Rat poison threatens whatever species shares habitat with such grow sites, and no animal is more imperiled than the fisher, a cat-sized member of the weasel family who lives in the Sierra Nevada and its foothills.
A recent study has established a link between rodenticide use on illegal pot farms and the failure of the fisher population to expand beyond a meager 300 animals in the Sierra Nevada.
The study, a joint effort among scientists at UC Davis, UC Berkeley and two other entities, used transmitters to track 46 adult female fishers in the Sierra National Forest. Researchers also made an inventory of illegal pot farms in the same area. Wherever a fisher's territory overlapped with an illegal pot farm, it turned out, the species failed to expand its range – an indicator that its population wasn't growing.
In the Sierra, fishers live at elevations between 2,500 and 7,000 feet. The rugged terrain of the fisher's habitat is also an ideal place to grow marijuana undetected. More....