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The animals are taking over in Oakland.
The population of East Bay rodents is skyrocketing, and nobody's exactly sure why. "Nature goes through these cycles. It just seems that California goes through these booms and busts," a biologist told the Contra Costa Times. The best theory is that a wet winter and cold summer caused a proliferation of tasty grasses on which the animals feed.
On a typical day, the ground is practically writhing with squirrels at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline. Highway 4 is covered with sad little patches of mouse-roadkill. And pet-owners report a spike in the number of dead animals brought indoors by cats.
Wild rodents can cause significant damage to human habitats, from chewing through cables, to undermining levees with their burrows, to spreading fleas.
The population boom is working its way up the food chain. With a healthy crop of grass comes a healthy crop of rodents, and that means that hawks, owls, eagles, rattlesnakes, and coyotes are all eating well. But they may unwittingly be ingesting poison, as homeowners plant toxic traps around their property to deal with the unwelcome visitors. The Department of Fish and Game advises that residents exercise extreme care when applying poisons, as they can harm endangered species.
The fluctuation in population is expected to even out as the animals consume their food sources.
Wild animals aren't the only ones whose numbers are soaring: Oakland shelters recently reported higher than usual numbers of rabbits.