These simple plywood boards, strewn in a field, look like trash. And they definitely are on the surface. Illegal dumping is something we unfortunately have to deal with in the Santa Monica Mountains. But there's more going on here.
Last month, law enforcement rangers organized a staff cleanup at Decker Canyon, one of the open space properties in the western half of the range managed by the National Park Service. We picked up 60 boards and two pieces of carpeting in an area of about one square mile. Trash in one spot off the side of the road screams illegal dumping. This? It screams something else: snake poaching (and sometimes other reptiles and amphibians).
Plywood and carpeting are attractive shade structures for snakes. They're like baiting a bear with honey. Plop them down on the ground and check them on a hot day and there's a good chance you'll find snakes.
Whether endangered or not, plants and animals on national parkland in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are protected resources. There is no hunting or animal collecting allowed. Our public lands are not farms for animals to be shipped off and sold in pet shops.
Although no arrests were made in the Decker Canyon case, evidence during the investigation assisted a related case elsewhere.
If you ever see something like this, please let us know! And for your safety and investigative purposes, do not disturb the site or try to clean it up yourself! Contact our dispatch at 661-723-3620.