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Suit to Stop Wild Pig Eradication Dismissed

Times Staff Writer

A federal judge has ruled that the National Park Service did not violate environmental laws in its slaughter of wild pigs on Santa Cruz Island.

U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian Jr. on Monday dismissed a lawsuit trying to stop the killings, the third time he has handed animal rights activists a defeat. Tevrizian has denied requests for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the pig-eradication program.

The National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy, which jointly own the island 18 miles off the Ventura County coast, said the pigs damaged archeological sites and threatened nine native plant species and, indirectly, the Santa Cruz Island fox.

The fox, about the size of a house cat, has been the prey of golden eagles, which officials said came to the island about 15 years ago to feed on the nonnative pigs.

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“It’s a win for the Santa Cruz Island fox and the nine other species,” Julie Benson of the Nature Conservancy said Wednesday.

Since the pig hunting began in April 2005, several varieties of native oak trees have begun to regenerate on the island, and the first bald eagle eggs have appeared in more than 50 years, Benson said.

The pig removal, a $5-million project being handled by a New Zealand-based hunting company, is part of a larger program to return the island to the state it was in before being colonized. Pigs were originally brought from the mainland in the 1850s, and bald eagles, which mainly find their food in the ocean, do not eat foxes.

More than 4,800 feral pigs have been killed, and an estimated 85% of the island has been cleared, said Yvonne Menard, a park service spokeswoman. The remaining pigs are expected to be eliminated by year’s end.

Richard M. Feldman, a Santa Barbara County businessman pursuing the lawsuit, said he would appeal the decision.

“This was totally expected -- we knew the judge had no empathy for the pigs and was totally in line with the government,” he said. “I’m like a bulldog on this thing. We’re not going to let it go.”

Feldman is joined in his suit by Robert Puddicombe, founder of the Channel Islands Animal Protection Assn., as well as In Defense of Animals.


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