Living with gophers

The prairie animals that most of us call “gophers” are properly named Richardson Ground Squirrels. Their normal home is in a short grass pasture or field in the country. But they seemed to have learned from their neighbors, the deer, Canada geese, and wild turkeys, and have moved into town. And from their viewpoint, it is perfect!

The first thing they like is the abundance of short, lush green grass for food. They like the short grass because they can see predators more easily.The watered, fertilized, mowed grass in a perfect food source as well. And, they like town life because there are many less predators. Once they get settled into their new urban homes, they partake of the buffet homeowners provide. I have had calls on lilies, lily bulbs, vegetables, annual flowers, and other landscape ornamentals being eaten by them.

And then there is the problem of their homes. The holes with the accompanying mounds of dirt in a lawn are a problem in so many ways. And once they are in them, they are hard to get to leave.

Managing them in an urban environment is difficult. Shooting and poisoning is done in rural areas away from people and pets, but neither is acceptable or legal in town. Some have had success running water down the holes and capturing them as they emerge. Relocation to a rural area or a more drastic, terminal action is then taken. But this obviously is time consuming, and if you leave one or two uncaught…….!!!! Live trapping has limited success, but can also be done. If a person is persistent with the water relocation and live trapping you can be successful. Setting your mower at its highest setting will help as they don’t like longer vegetation by their holes.

There is a federal agency that partners with two North Dakota state agencies for animal damage control. They can be contacted to possibly help with the problem. The Wildlife Services Program is a cooperative effort of state and federal governments administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Complaints of wildlife damage to crops and other property most often involved coyote depredation of livestock, blackbird and waterfowl damage to sunflowers and small grain crops, and damage to trees, shrubs, and flooded cropland caused by beavers. Wildlife Services also responds to skunk complaints, squirrel damage to trees, and rabbit damage to gardens. Wildlife Services also works with civilian and military authorities to evaluate and assist with a variety of wildlife hazards on airport facilities.

For more information call 701-355-3300.