I ran into two members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Patrol this afternoon.
No, I wasn't at a border. I was merely walking the halls of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The border patrol agents were there to meet with entomology department officials in Briggs Hall.
They handed me a pamphlet, "Don't Pack a Pest," urging vacationeers (who me? I didn't go anywhere on T-Day, honest, 'cept for an insect safari in my back yard) to bring back memories, not pests.
The pamphlet is a reprint of a news article written by Kate Campbell of the California Farm Bureau Federation and published in the May/June edition of California Country magazine.
The gist of the article: don't tuck food, seeds or plants in your luggage and try to smuggle them into California. "Although they (items) may seem harmless, discoveries like these illustrate that while California travelers are settling in after a long trip, so too are a host of damaging pests, plants and diseases that have hitchiked home with them," Campbell wrote.
At the San Francisco Airport, someone tried to sneak in a "whole shrink-wrapped piglet and a rice straw pillow from Mongolia, with potentially diseased grain still attached," Campbell wrote.
Then there are the seed smugglers, like the California executive who stuffed seeds into pouches tucked in his underwear.
Whoa! (The reason they nabbed him was because the border patrol had earlier flagged him as a high-risk seed smuggler.)
The pamphlet quoted California Food and Agriculture Secretary A. G. Kawamura: "The public has an important role to play in keeping pests out."
Here are some tips for travelers, courtesy of the pamphlet:
- When camping, check tents, tarps, ice chests and other gear for dirt and pests. Rinse and shake before stowing.
- Leave firewood behind, likewise kindling, sticks and leaves.
- Don't bring fresh fruit and vegetables back across the state boundaries, particularly from backyard or roadside trees and gardens
- Don't bring animal houses back--dog houses, poultry cages or rabbit hutches.
- Hose off bikes, motorcycles and boats.
- Check tubular equipment for dirt--hollow poles, pipes, folding chairs and rods.
- For boaters, never move live fish or other aquatic animals or plants from one body of water to antoher.
- Drain and dry all water and dry boats, equipment and gear and clean live-wells.
- Check waders and boots for caked-on dirt.
- Keep foodstuffs tightly closed to prevent bringing infestations home. If in doubt, throw it out.
- Don't dump aquarium plants and exotic fish into sewers, creeks or lakes.
- Know what you're planting in your garden by checking online at www.plantright.org. Most plants sold for use in gardens and landscaping do not invade or harm wildland areas, but a few vigorous species can--and do.
Want to report a suspective invasive plant or pest? Call the California Department of Food and Ag's Plant-Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899.
Want to know what NOT to bring back to California? Go to www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/pe/ or call (916) 654-0312.
Aquatic invaders? Check the Department of Fish and Game's Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives.
And to report a smuggler of prohibited exotic fruits, vegetables or meat products across international borders and into the U.S. or California, call the anti-smuggling hotline at (800) 877-3835.
As Campbell said, bring back memories, not pests.
Protecting California from invasive species costs some $85 million a year, according to www.plantright.org.