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City leaders must address wildlife health threat proactively

Some cities finance campaigns to corral and relocate urban wildlife, clear dormant properties of brush and debris

Compton health threat: don’t call the Marines; just City officials to take action!

EDITORIAL – Compton has a wild and dangerous problem. It is no secret that wild raccoons, opossums, and roof rats are literally having a run of one district in the City.

District 1, site of the Trammell Crow light industrial construction project, is suddenly fraught with the wild creatures, which apparently have been displaced from a decades-long dormant habitat. The wildlife is now encroaching on nearby neighborhoods apparently in search of food, and possibly new habitat.

People probably weren’t aware raccoons and opossums were already deeply entrenched in southwest Los Angeles County before people became entrenched here. In fact, the animals never left. The portion of the county in areas like Compton, Carson, Wilmington, Harbor City, and Torrance were wild and rustic before they became civilized.

The wild creatures easily adapted. Raccoons often rummage through neighborhood backyard garbage cans without lids in search of food at night and in the wee morning. Opossums are no slackers, either. Both animals will eat nearly anything, including vegetables grown in backyard gardens.

These wild animals are a problem to be reckoned with — particularly raccoons. While the animals can transmit rabies to humans and their pets, the biggest threat comes from a parasite contained in their intestines — the “raccoon roundworm.” This organism is so harmful, if induced into the bloodstream in humans, can cause life-threatening neurological damage to the brain and spinal cord.

The Texas Department of Health, Division of Zoonosis Control is estimating 10,000 new cases of roundworm infection in children every year, most often resulting from ingesting dirt contaminated with animal feces.

Adult infections are mostly transmitted through direct contact with their pets, notably with dogs because they are prone to engage intruders into their backyard provinces more readily. The infections in adults are mild enough to go unnoticed, but that’s the gist of the problem – the roundworms can silently wreak damage to the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system for years, ultimately metastasizing as toxocariasis infection, which can result in severe and even fatal disease. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, headache, weakness, lethargy, and wheezing.

READ MORE: Compton wildlife pose serious health risk

Contact with wild raccoons should be avoided, first and foremost. But if removing their feces from the backyard is warranted, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control advises using rubber gloves and a mask, then washing hands thoroughly afterward.

These are common sense approaches to dealing with the parasitic threat. But proactive attention from official civic providence is also drastically needed. Wild raccoons and opossums are protected by law and cannot be systematically destroyed. An intelligent approach toward their control is needed. The most logical solution is trapping and removal by professional wranglers, trappers, or pest control experts.

Political wherewithal must be implemented to drive the point that the parasitic threat in host raccoons and opossums can be solved through legislative mandates to eliminate potential “Brownfield” habitat so common in urban areas, for instance; and providing grant resources to clear dormant properties of brush and debris — especially those owned by City government.

Another proactive approach would be regular educational forums like town hall meetings to apprise the community of local, county, and state government resources for a problem such as this.

The Compton Herald encourages the City’s political leadership to spearhead the charge — namely the Council — to work with Mayor Brown and the City Manager Roger Haley to crunch the numbers and come up with a workable budget to finance a protracted campaign to corral and relocate these creatures. If successful, the tactic should be re-visited, as needed.

It has been done successfully in others cities and it can be done in Compton.

The Compton Herald consulted the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control for this editorial. For more information visit animalcare.lacounty.gov

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton and the Los Angeles metropolitan area of California, and the world.

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