Animal rights activists will get another chance to try to persuade a federal judge to halt what they consider the senseless slaughter of thousands of pigs on Santa Cruz Island.
Recently rebuffed in their attempt to secure a temporary restraining order against the National Park Service, In Defense of Animals and two individual plaintiffs intend to ask Central District Judge Dickran Tevrizian Jr. on Sept. 26 to reconsider the case and grant an injunction against the feral pig eradication program.
Government scientists contend that the wild pigs threaten nine endangered plants and indirectly jeopardize the endangered Santa Cruz Island fox.
Santa Barbara businessman Richard M. Feldman, one of the plaintiffs, noted Monday that the standard needed to secure a temporary restraining order was higher than that required for an injunction.
A more important distinction, he added, was that the next court ruling could be appealed.
“We feel we are in an excellent position to appeal any negative decision” the judge might make, Feldman said. “And we anticipate he would come out on the negative side of the argument. But we believe we can win on appeal because the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is very amenable to arguments about National Environmental Policy Act violations.”
Thom Mrozak, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, said federal attorneys had not been notified that a motion was filed requesting a preliminary injunction, so he could not comment.
In early April, the park service hired Pro Hunting, a New Zealand-based company, for a two-year contract to track down the pigs, using snipers, dogs and electronic collars. The goal is to eliminate an estimated 4,000 wild pigs. So far, more than 1,700 pigs have been killed.
The Santa Cruz Island fox, a cat-sized creature found only on the island, has been preyed upon by golden eagles, which park service officials say came to the Channel Islands about 15 years ago to feed on the nonnative pigs. Today, about 150 foxes remain in the wild on Santa Cruz Island, which lies 18 miles off the Ventura County coast. The National Park Service owns a quarter of the island, and the nonprofit Nature Conservancy owns the rest.
Julie Benson, a spokeswoman for the Nature Conservancy, said the destructive pigs are too dangerous to the ecosystem to be allowed there any longer.
“Eradication is the only alternative and the best option. The pigs need to be totally removed from the island if those [endangered] species are to survive,” she said.
Veterinarian Elliot Katz, founder and president of In Defense of Animals, said he hoped the judge would spend more than the 10 minutes he did during the July 11 hearing on the issue.
“Hopefully, there will be more time to go into the reasons and technicalities of the violations of the National Park Service,” Katz said. “Since there are probably not a lot of pigs left, I think the agency should give the contraceptive approach a chance; do the right thing and allow the remaining pigs to live out their lives.”
But Benson said the idea of sterilizing the pigs had been considered and ruled out as an ineffective method of eliminating the animals.
“We’ve said all along that contraceptives do not address the issue,” she said.