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60-Second Earth

Marijuana Farms Poison Wildlife

Pathologists have found the first evidence of wildlife poisoned by a cash crop--and not in a traditional agricultural area. David Biello reports

The fisher is a cute if cantankerous, increasingly rare, cat-sized carnivore of the Pacific Northwest. The big threat for weasellike fishers used to be all the logging and habitat destruction going on in the region. But a new study reveals the first four fishers known to have died from poisoning.

Who would be poisoning fishers, you ask? Marijuana farmers, who use rodenticide to protect their illicit crop, much of it grown on public lands near Redwood National Park and Yosemite. The study is in the journal Public Library of Science One. These remote, hidden pot farms overlap with fisher habitat—and in 2008 alone nearly 4 million marijuana plants were removed from public lands in California.

This problem extends well beyond fishers and marijuana. The national parks of countries like Guatemala have become the preferred haven of illicit landing fields for the cocaine trade, with harmful effects on the scarlet macaw, among other species. And even completely legal substances, like my caffeinated coffee, have disturbing impacts on wildlife and people.

So the next time you're tempted to toke up, take a bump or just sip your latte, consider the costs of your habits.  

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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