PLAYA DEL REY — A Superior Court judge in Santa Monica issued a temporary restraining order Thursday against an animal rights organization and six animal rights activists who are trying to block efforts to trap and kill red foxes that are threatening other wildlife in the Ballona Wetlands.
The order prohibits the activists and others associated with the Wildlife Protection League from trespassing on the Ballona Wetlands. It also forbids them to "hurl" anything at the property of Maguire Thomas Partners, the development company that owns the wetlands, or to threaten Maguire Thomas employees or the president of Friends of Ballona Wetlands, an environmental group.
The temporary restraining order, signed by Judge David M. Rothman, names Peggy Randall and Allison Saiko, both of whom acknowledged making telephone calls to Ruth Lansford, president of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, that the judge deemed threatening.
In addition, the order names Patricia McPherson, Carol Evel, Kenny Rogers and Bill Dyer, all of whom trespassed on the Ballona Wetlands and, in some cases, refused to leave when asked to do so, according to court documents. The Wildlife Protection League, the organization most active in opposing the state-approved effort to trap and destroy of the foxes, was also named.
An Aug. 28 hearing was scheduled to determine whether a stricter temporary restraining order would be issued to prohibit two additional animal rights activists and six more animal rights organizations from coming closer than 200 yards to Lansford and Maguire Thomas property.
Dyer, one of the activists named in the restraining order, was outraged at the action.
"We feel we are being slandered," he said. "These so-called acts of terrorism I think are just a smoke screen and a way of discrediting us. The only terrorism I know about is the death of three foxes."
The request for a restraining order by attorneys for Maguire Thomas Partners and Lansford is the latest development in a running battle over the fate of the wetlands foxes, a fight that started when trapping began on July 20. Trapping was suspended three days later when a zoo offered to take two of the estimated 15 foxes that are left.
Maguire Thomas is the developer of the vast Playa Vista commercial-residential project on nearly 1,000 acres of land between Marina del Rey and the Westchester Bluffs. As part of the project, the company has agreed to restore 260 acres of the Ballona Wetlands as a wildlife preserve.
Removal of the foxes is part of the restoration plan because the foxes, who are not native to the wetlands, prey on several endangered species of birds. After two years of attempts to relocate the foxes and extensive consultations with wildlife biologists, the firm resorted to trapping and euthanizing the foxes.
The request for a restraining order was made by attorneys for Maguire Thomas and Lansford in response to what the attorneys said was an escalating series of incidents over the past several weeks.
On Aug. 8, according to court documents, an anonymous caller left a message on the Friends of Ballona Wetlands answering machine that said, "We're gonna cut your necks and your heads off and put you in traps like you have the foxes, you (expletive)." In another call to Lansford the same day, the caller said: "I'm gonna give you a bomb threat because if you don't stop, we're gonna bomb that place down. We have some high-tech bomb makers."
According to court documents, other incidents that occurred from July 24 to Aug. 5 included:
--On two occasions, windows were shattered by gunshots at Maguire Thomas' Playa Vista project building.
--Gunshots shattered windows at a Maguire Thomas employee's home.
--"Fox Killers" and "Killers" were written in red paint on the Playa Vista project building. In another incident, "Die Trapper Ted," an apparent reference to the head of the company hired to trap the foxes, was etched into the wetland soil.
Nelson Rising, senior partner at Maguire Thomas, who reported all the incidents to the police, said that he decided to seek the restraining order after a Los Angeles Police Department detective suggested it as a measure of protection.
"It has been really chilling," he said. "I have a responsibility to my employees here."
Trapping is scheduled to resume this week, according to an attorney for Maguire Thomas. The restraining order also says that those named may not interfere with or remove fox traps from the wetlands.