Gopher control underway in the Crowsnest Pass 0
Ground squirrels in Southern Alberta, both Richardson and Columbia, are rather prolific little creatures, and the well cultivated fields of urban areas, like parks, schools and cemeteries, are some of their favourite places to set up a home.
Unfortunately, their homes involve a network of underground tunnels, complete with numerous entrances. These not only cause damage to existing structures, like gravesites and playground, they create a potentially hazardous, or even litigious, situation for anyone unlucky enough to step in one of their holes while playing soccer, football or anything else on a municipally owned field.
To combat these problems that the gophers present, council approved $5000 in the Agriculture and Environmental Services budget for control of Columbian Ground Squirrels and Northern Pocket Gophers.
"Although Columbian Ground Squirrels and Northern Pocket Gophers are native wildlife in the foothills and Rocky Mountains, they are also considered nuisance animals in the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act if they destroy land, livestock or property," said Kim Lutz, Agricultural Fieldman for the Crowsnest Pass.
"Because of the lack of consistent control and monitoring over the last decade there was a demand to double the control effort in 2012 and 2013 in order to effectively control their populations and ultimately be controlled annually by municipal staff in the future."
The services of Animal Damage Control, based in Morinville, were contracted for the week of June 12 through June 15 as Lutz said they came highly recommended. Finding some budget flexibility further on in the summer allowed a repeat visit from August 21 to 24, a perfect time for accessing the school fields that were occupied in June.
The first phase involved a two person team but last week it was only Emily Lamb who made the trek back down south. Lamb says this is a great time of year for controlling Columbian Ground Squirrel as the males have all gone into hibernation.
By eliminating a large number of the remaining female population there will be far less breeding opportunities in the spring, making control work even easier next year. However, Lamb doesn't foresee their populations dipping too low anytime soon.
"The goal is never to just eradicate them," said Lamb. "First of all, it's not the greatest for the environment and second of all, it's not possible with a species like this."
"The issue here is that there is so much adjacent land. It's a big project to get them under control. They move in all the time and that's why you need constant monitoring. Someone has to be out the making sure that when they do move in someone is there before they start breeding and getting out of control."
During the June 21, 2012 Town Hall Meeting, Councillor Brian Gallant spoke to the attendees, quelling numerous rumours that he had heard around town, one of those being the hiring of a gopher assassin by the municipality. As it turns out, there were two members of Animal Damage Control in the Crowsnest Pass during the previous week, using air rifles to control gophers. Councillor Gallant was reached for comment, confirmed that it was his mistake and apologized for any controversy it may have caused amongst those who saw the crew around town.
"It was an error on my part," said Gallant in an email. "I was told that we were not hiring 'gopher shooters' just before the meeting and I thought it was funny so I joked about it. It was my mistake for not doing more research before talking about it."
"We do need to hire exterminators as we have horrible problems, especially in cemeteries. I was subsequently told by Myron (Thompson) that they would be using little explosives and traps to get them in their holes. I was told later that they had also applied for the right to shoot in town."
For more information on Animal Damage Control and their operations, head to their website at www.animaldamagecontrol.ca.