As more and more people light up under revamped marijuana laws, not everyone is getting their chill on. Specifically, it seems like the cannabis industry’s sudden growth is once again burning wildlife.
The state of California is concerned about the status of the Humbolt marten, a creature sometimes described as the west coast’s version of the Tasmanian devil. These mammals are arguably one of the cutest critters on the planet with their tiny faces and furry bodies, but conservationists want them to be declared an endangered species thanks to the risk they’re facing in the wake of deforestation and the growing cannabis industry.
Redwood forests, where the martens dwell, have decreased over the last several years. As a result the population of 200 or so martens currently living in California has been driven to hang out in three northern counties, which overlap with the Emerald Triangle where cannabis cultivation reigns supreme.
It isn’t the farms in general that are endangering the animals, of course, but the anticoagulant rodentcides that growers use to deter rodents from chewing through their irrigation lines or eating food supplies that is of immediate concern. That poison is now entering the forest food webs at an alarming rate, causing the marten (along with birds and other mammals that eat rodents) to die from internal bleeding. Additionally, those same chemicals are running off into rivers and killing wild salmon.
While scientists are still trying to figure out just how impacted the martens are by the new toxins entering their habitat, a study says that in Humboldt county alone 70 per cent of northern spotted owls and 40 per cent of barred owls that have been found dead tested positive for poison.
If the proposed protections for the martens go through, it’s unclear how conservationists would stop the animals from ingesting the poison, but it is clear that some sort of action needs to be taken so the entire species doesn’t go up in smoke.
“It’s like they all shop at the same grocery store,” lead author of the study and co-director of Intergral Ecology Research Center, Mourad Gabriel, said. “We have clear and stark evidence that the food web for the northern spotted owl is contaminated, and martens live in the same habitat.”