Kit fox: Removal methods questioned

The Renegade Rip has been investigating claims that officials at Bakersfield College violated the Federal Endangered Species Act, namely in the eradication of kit foxes that reside within Memorial Stadium.

The Renegade Rip is protecting the identities of its sources, and they will not be named within this story.

In February 2015, a source noticed things out of the ordinary in Memorial Stadium, specifically in the area surrounding the BC logo on the hillside.

Out of the ordinary included a “blue spray” believed to be herbicide, sprayed on the remaining living vegetation, and maintenance equipment was observed being out of place.

“When they sprayed the side of the hill with herbicide to kill all the vegetation, that hillside you have not been able to touch it for years because of the kit fox, they’ve always been protected for at least 15 years,” the source stated.

Out of curiosity, the source climbed the hillside, at which time it was observed that numerous kit fox dens had been collapsed, or even worse, filled in with cement.

The construction was believed to have occurred after hours, as not even the Department of Public Safety observed this occurring.

“I did not see any of the concrete work being done. They went in and covered the dens up, they must have done it at nighttime. I was, like, why would they cover the dens up? The kit foxes are still out here. It got to the point where the kit foxes were on the other side of the gate, near the shrubs back behind the BC sign, near the parking lot. They cemented all the dens,” according to the source.

Around this time, a large pile of mulch was delivered to BC and placed in the parking lot adjacent to Memorial Stadium.

After seeing what had taken place on the hillside, the source called the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and questioned the administration at BC.

The Endangered Species Act strictly forbids disturbing kit fox habitats between the months of January to July, as this is considered breeding/birthing season.

Outside of breeding/birthing season, any other interaction with kit foxes is closely monitored, requiring both a wildlife biologist and a permit.

After noting that nothing was happening, the source again notified the Department of Fish and Wildlife, this time in person.

The source was also told by BC administration that a wildlife biologist, identified as Vicky Monroe, was consulted and had given the school verbal permission to eradicate the kit foxes.

The Rip recently contacted Andrew Halverson, a warden with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Halverson confirmed the Central Region Office of the Department of Fish and Wildlife had received a report concerning the kit foxes located at BC. He suggested The Rip contact Monroe, who would have had more involvement being a wildlife biologist, than he would have had as a warden.

Monroe was confirmed to be a wildlife biologist employed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Rip attempted to contact Monroe, but her voicemail indicated she is on a leave of absence, with no date of return. The forwarding number she left in her message is disconnected.

In June 2015, the director of Facilities, Maintenance and Operations Craig Rouse abruptly left BC, and Don Birdwell assumed director duties.

During this transition, the things that occurred during the darkness of night finally had a light shined upon them. Kit foxes remained on the hillside. Some even had the resilience to re-dig their dens.

The administration at BC ultimately brought in a third-party wildlife biologist who, upon inspecting the site, shut down any further work from occurring on the hillside.

Between July 2015 and December 2015, the hillside remained untouched and the mulch was subsequently moved to open up better parking for the students.

According to a Nov. 4, 2015 story the Rip did on the mulch, Birdwell stated the plans to place the mulch on the hillside in Memorial Stadium had to be stopped due to the kit foxes.

“To remove the kit foxes without harm we hired a third-party biologist who surveyed everything.” Birdwell went on further stating, “the problem has been resolved, and we plan to go ahead with our operations.”

In middle to late December 2015, under the guidance of a wildlife biologist, a portion of the mulch was laid on the east edge of the hillside. It appeared BC was working against the clock, as this year’s current breeding/birthing season started in January 2016.

According to a Feb. 3, 2016 story the Rip did on construction on campus, Birdwell confirmed that some of the mulch was placed on the hillside in Memorial Stadium. However, the rest of the mulch could not be installed due to a kit fox problem, and that the mulch would be utilized in flowerbeds located throughout campus.

On April 5, 2016, Birdwell stepped down from his position as director, assuming a managerial position.

Several sources have told The Rip that this change was at Birdwell’s request and had nothing to do with his involvement with the kit foxes.

“I’m not really the one to come to for these types of things anymore. Anthony Culpepper is kind of running things right now until the new head of maintenance and operations comes in. Basically there were just too many recent problems for one person,” stated Birdwell. He later on would add, “There’s a lot going on around here, but we are working on it I promise you. It’s just kind of hard without a director at the moment.”

Bill Potter has just been named the new director of Facilities, Maintenance and Operations.

Through subsequent investigation, it was learned that Facilities, Maintenance and Operations director Rouse approved the proposal for eradicating the kit foxes out of Memorial Stadium and laying mulch on the hillside. Attempts were made to contact Rouse, who is now the senior director of Facilities and Operations for the Rocklin Unified School District near Sacramento, but Rouse never responded to the request to be interviewed.

The Rip has also attempted to interview Culpepper, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services at BC, but he has not responded to those interview requests.

As of publication, the Renegade Rip is still investigating this story.

Numerous individuals have been identified, and The Rip is working on arranging interviews with all of those involved.

The Rip’s Felicity Tomisaka, Mason J. Rockfellow, Carl E. Littleberry Jr. and Marcus Castro have contributed to this story.