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Group sues to halt killing of Channel Island turkeys

Animal rights activists say they want to break the cycle of slaughter on Santa Cruz.

January 13, 2007|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

An animal rights group that fought unsuccessfully to block the slaughter of thousands of feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island has sued the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy this week, hoping to block further killing of wild turkeys on the island off the Ventura County coast.

"We filed suit because we have to break this cycle of slaughter, slaughter, slaughter without looking at the long-term ramifications," said Elliot M. Katz, a Northern California veterinarian who is founder and president of In Defense of Animals. The nonprofit initiated the federal suit in Los Angeles with Santa Barbara County businessman Richard M. Feldman.

Officials for the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy -- which own the island -- declined to comment on the suit.

The plaintiffs say 250 turkeys were killed last month on the 96-square-mile island without the proper environmental review. Originally introduced on Santa Cruz in 1972 by a rancher, the turkey population increased dramatically last year as more of their eggs survived after most of the pigs were eliminated.

The pigs were targeted for eradication because they destroyed endangered plants and were a food source for golden eagles, which prey on the cat-size Santa Cruz Island fox, an endangered species.

Scientists attempting to restore the original ecosystem on Santa Cruz ordered the hunting contractor hired to kill the pigs to also shoot wild turkeys, which officials said were on the part of the island owned by the Nature Conservancy. The Park Service owns about a quarter of the island.

"It's just a continuation of the boondoggle they're creating," Katz said.

A suit seeking to halt the pig eradication program was filed in May 2005 but its proponents lost several rounds in court. That case is being reviewed by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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