Since 1998, they have won the gold medal 5 times for squirrel Over Population by the county which they think is more of a curse then an award. The Ground Squirrel is seen in the same light as other rodents such as gophers and rats, though much cuter they run the same risk of spreading some very unglamorous ickies such as rabies, flees, the bubonic plague (for real, the article I was reading said that).
In 2005 the city set out poison filled traps which ended up being ingested by other animals (not good) and caused a very inhumane death full of suffering and pain.
In 2006 the city tried pumping poison gas into the deep burrows where the squirrels live which ignited further public criticism.
5 months later they tried capturing the squirrels in traps and then euthanizing them with carbon dioxide. The carcasses were taken to a Cal State Bakersfield wildlife rehabilitation facility and fed to hawks returning to the wild.
Over the past 5 years city officials, looking to solve the issue in a diplomatic way finally came to the conclusion to try something new, something that could be appreciated by animal lovers and rodent haters a like.
The city plan to use a contraceptive called GonaCon, an immuno-contraceptive developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to help control the squirrel population. The vaccine stops ovulation in female squirrels, while halting testicular development in males. It's fairly inexpensive, has no side effects and worked with excellent results back in 2004 at Berkeley Marina park curbing the birth rate by 66%.
I really don't have a problem with squirrels, living in downtown Calgary it's basically the only wildlife I get to see. I potentially don't see them as a health risk and neither a carrier of the bubonic plague (does that even exist anymore in North America?), I suppose things might be different in warm sunny California though.
Source: LA Times Photograph by: Getty Images