Wildlife abounds on La Serna campus

Haley Lomas, Editor-in-Chief

Urban sprawl has caused a growth of community areas in places where wildlife used to once dwell. La Serna is one such place. Since its founding in 1961, La Serna’s staff and students have shared the school with critters from all walks of life.

“La Serna’s unique hillside location allows us to coexist with the natural habitat of the Whittier hills,” said Ann Fitzgerald, La Serna’s principal. “We have a variety of animals including coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, hawks,  possum, and ground squirrels living in and around our Whittier location.”

This slice of nature may make for some great sightseeing, but comes with its own set of problems. Some of the wildlife can cause damage to La Serna’s infrastructure. “Damage; it can be done on the landscaping in our planters, or possibly on the structure [of La Serna],” said Assistant Principal Randy Castillo, who is also in charge of the maintenance crew.

Structure damage has been primarily caused by the California ground squirrel. This creature’s habit for mischief has caught the eye of La Serna’s principal, but that does not mean she is necessarily vindictive about it. “I think I need to set the record straight,” said Fitzgerald, “I don’t harbor a vendetta against the ground squirrel but they have presented some unique problems on campus.” Fitzgerald went on to explain, “the California ground squirrel makes their home underground by creating a series of sometimes complex tunnels. Some of their tunnels have caused damage to sidewalks, plants, and trees.” Despite her lack of vendetta, Fitzgerald has received many squirrel-themed gifts that now reside in her office.

Aside from structural damage, the wildlife at La Serna has become somewhat problematic for La Serna’s greenhouse. Founded by the AP Environmental  Science class in 2014, the greenhouse area, which hosts chickens and various plants, has met with its own share of problems. “Coyotes assist in keeping the population of rodents and other small mammals under control. But, because we host chickens in our outdoor environmental education center, it was necessary to construct a secure structure to keep the chickens safe,” Fitzgerald said. Gophers can also prove problematic for the greenhouse according to Environmental Science teacher Jeffrey Padgett. “[Gophers] tunnel underground, and any sort of vegetables we have planted- it’s almost like a cartoon- they take the plant and pull it straight underground,” Padgett said. Padgett also said these gopher tunnels can ruin the soil to the point where plant life cannot be supported.

Despite any damage, the wildlife at La Serna is a vital part of the school. “The complexity and balance of the wildlife is important and it is vital to not upset the balance,” Fitzgerald said. Because of this, many precautions are taken to keep the ecosystem in balance. “Most recently a skunk found it’s way to the planter next to the B building. We took great care not to frighten her but it was necessary for her to be moved to another location,” said Fitzgerald. This treatment of wildlife ensures student safety and shows the continued care La Serna gives to its wildlife.

So, whether one be a small rodent, coyote, or student, they can always find a place to belong in La Serna.