Features & Stories
Gopher Wars by Trudy Frisk


"But, they were here only this morning!" I exclaimed, staring at vacant earth where lilies had flourished. They'd disappeared, vanished as if pulled into the Underworld. I ruled out Hades or Orpheus; neither would leave sundry piles of dirt. By inference the culprit was a pocket gopher.

All my kindly instincts said it was only doing gophers work in the world. But the householder side of me insisted, "It's undermining your sewer pipe, it's digging close to the foundation, its destroying plants. Do something!"

I sought counsel of experienced people.

The Significant Other stated it was my fault: gophers had come because I don't spray herbicides on the lawn. Rather Calvinistic' wouldn't you say? The Earth Goddess is punishing me for not eradicating all forms of herbage except Kentucky Bluegrass? That couldn't be it.

A former neighbor, knowing my predilection for protecting habitats and their residents, said, "Well, Trudy, first we have to establish whether this gopher is an endangered species." I thought for a minute.

"Glenn," I replied, "it's living in my back yard. Believe me, it's in danger."

Peter, head of the City's Public Works Department, gave detailed instructions on trapping which involved far more digging than the gopher was doing. Finally he advised, "Just move. You'll never trap it; it's easier to move!"

My psychiatrist friend, who's interested in animal psychology, recommended visualization. Sending a mental image to the gopher of it moving out of my yard and up into the hills would, she felt, be effective. I wasn't so sure.

Joanne, my niece, advised that I watch Caddy Shack to gain insight. Probably with a gopher curled up beside me, reaching a paw for the popcorn.

In desperation I phoned the government conservation officer. "I know", I apologized, "that you usually deal with the charismatic mega-fauna. Gophers are small stuff compared to grizzlies and cougars. But could you help?"

Sure he could. Humane trapping, he advised, was the way to go. "Get carrots", he said. "They really go for carrots." So I arranged to borrow a humane trap and, on my lunch hour, sauntered to the store and purchased a package of carrots. Organic carrots. No additives, no pesticides. Nothing but the best for the soon to be evicted gopher. Ready to trap!

The holistic approach was negated by my next-door neighbor. Melissa is a meticulous gardener. Tunneling by our mutual gopher distressed her intensely. She called me at work with the news that one of her clients, a rancher's wife, when informed of our gopher problem, promptly volunteered her husband's exterminating services. So much for the organic carrots and the humane trap.

That evening the rancher and wife arrived. Doubtless the word 'rancher' evokes images of tall, tanned, taciturn but competent men wearing large hats, squinty lines around their eyes from herding all those cattle, sturdily driving their pickup trucks. Well Alan, though tanned and jean clad, wore a baseball cap and drove a Volvo. Maybe he hasn't read the Rancher's Guide To Dress. Maybe he left the pickup at home. Anyway, he was lean and competent. By the way he swung those gopher traps, Melissa and I knew this was no novice. This rancher had gone head to head with many a gopher and come out best.

After probing, prodding, and estimating gopher runways, Alan set the traps. We promised to monitor and report. As a back-up Alan did a twice daily trap line surveillance during which he was welcomed by Melissa and I with the enthusiasm usually reserved for the Messiah on His second round.

Did it succeed? Well, we aren't exactly certain. Two traps were sprung but no incarcerated gopher appeared in either. The digging ceased. I raked my lawn and planted grass. Maybe it was a sensitive gopher, offended at traps and other signs of rejection. Maybe the visualization worked. It's moved and I haven't. So far.

Gophers unite us. Melissa went on holidays this summer leaving me in charge of her mail and her personal gopher trap. When gophers were discovered down the street, the entire block watched for signs of fresh digging, relaying news of gopher activity with the zeal of Elvis fans reporting a vision at Graceland. Goliath, a local cat, has proven so effective at gopher management that he's been placed on permanent retainer and promised a Christmas bonus!

(Trudy is a freelance writer living in Kamloops, B.C.)


Other articles by Trudy Frisk

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