County opts for firepower to combat gopher infestation

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By Carol A. Clark

For wreaking havoc on local ball fields and its potential for spreading the plague, gophers headlined a public meeting at White Rock’s Spiro Complex Saturday morning.

Parks Manager Dick McIntyre and other parks department officials addressed Los Alamos County’s growing gopher infestation with the dozen or so residents who gathered around them in the complex parking lot.

One resident mentioned being aware of “lots” of leg injuries attributed to “bad ball fields laced with gopher holes.”

The threat of illness or death to family pets coming in contact with diseased or poisoned gophers also was discussed.

“This really is a public health and safety issue,” said biologist Rick Stupka of the Parks and Recreation Board.

The county has been seeking community input on the troubling situation and on the Rodenator extermination system under consideration to potentially eradicate the problem, McIntyre said.

With poison and death traps among the choices, public consensus at Saturday’s meeting determined the Rodenator to be the most humane course of action for the county to take.

The system injects propane and oxygen into gopher holes and sparks underground explosions that collapse tunnels and dens.

“A concussion occurs in which all the air is evacuated from the tunnels and dens causing cardio vascular collapse in the gophers and that happens in an instant,” Stupka said. “It’s humane and it’s species specific, we won’t be using bait poisons or death traps that might affect non-target organisms.”

The gopher issue plaguing the area has been well publicized and Stupka said Saturday’s meeting was the public’s final opportunity to “say what it’s going to say” on the matter.

“Since announcing that we were looking into using the Rodenator I’ve had just 10 calls and all have been pro, there’s been no negativity at all,” Parks Superintendent Jeff Humpton said.

White Rock resident David Ramsey agreed saying, “My dad lives in Pajarito Acres and spends $300-$400 a year on gopher problems. I really think this is the most humane way to dispose of the problem. I don’t like traps and I don’t like poison, we’ll be picking up a Rodenator for our own use.”

The system costs about $2,000, including the machine, accessories and a cart to slide the system into the back of a pick up, McIntyre said.

County workers currently spend two-three hours a day trapping and disposing of five-10 gophers, he said, and gophers have two to three annual breeding cycles, he said.

“We’re also repairing water lines all the time that break because of gopher boroughs,” McIntyre said. “Two county crew members will be selected for Rodenator training and they will utilize the system on county owned property throughout the area.”

It will be up to homeowners experiencing gopher problems in their yards to decide on their own course of action, he said.

Humpton is the person to contact with gopher related questions at 662-8159.