What is Contra Costa County doing about pest control?

This is the first in a series of articles about the County’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program and how the public can use similar tactics at home.

Contra Costa County has reduced its pesticide use by 75% since the County’s IPM Program began. The Board of Supervisors adopted an IPM Policy in 2002 that requires the County to focus on long-term pest prevention and to combine the use of physical, horticultural, biological, and chemical control methods to manage pests. When pesticides are used, they are selected and applied in a way that minimizes risks to human health, to beneficial and non-target organisms, and to the environment.

In 2009, the County hired an IPM Coordinator and created an IPM Advisory Committee to advise the Board of Supervisors on pest management in County operations. The 13-member Committee is composed of both County staff and members of the public. The Committee is working with County staff to document the decision-making process for pests the County deals with. The Committee also created a presentation for in-home visitors to help them recognize pest issues in their clients’ homes and to provide information on pest prevention. To date, Committee members have trained 233 in-home visitors.

The County manages rats, mice, ants, and cockroaches in and around 200 County buildings that comprise about 3.2 million square feet. The Grounds Division manages 132 sites on a weekly basis, and is on call for the rest of the landscaping around the more than 400 County properties. The Public Works Department manages vegetation on about 375 miles of the County’s 660 miles of road and on 76 miles of flood control channels.

Over the past 15 years, the County has instituted a number of pest management innovations. In and around buildings, the County manages rats and mice solely by trapping—no rodenticide is used.

Gophers and moles are managed by trapping or by injecting carbon monoxide into their burrows. Last year, the Public Works Department used goats to graze 375 acres of creek banks and flood control basins to reduce fire risk. Woodchips are used to suppress weeds on County properties, and every year the Grounds Division grinds dead trees into $25K to $45K of woodchip mulch.

The County has piloted several alternative control methods for rodents. In 2009, the Agriculture Department erected 20 raptor perches on Lime Ridge and Shell Ridge Open Space to attract hawks to help with ground squirrels. In 2012, the Agriculture Department experimented with live trapping ground squirrels along an East County road. In 2016 and 2017 the County worked with Eagle Scouts to install three owl nest boxes: one in Livorna Park and two in Kubicek Basin along Pine Creek in Walnut Creek.

The County is dedicated to continually improving how pests are managed and to using the least toxic and most cost-effective control measures. With its IPM Program, the County endeavors to lead by example.

For more information on the County’s IPM Program, please visit cchealth.org/ipm


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