County to tackle gopher problem

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By Jennifer Garcia

Some furry, and seemingly unwanted, tenants have inhabited the ball fields around Los Alamos and now officials are holding a meeting to discuss how they should be eradicated.

Gophers have taken up residence in ball fields, posing a danger to those who use the fields, officials report. Not only is it possible for users to trip and fall because of gopher holes, but also the possibility of contracting a disease, such as plague, from infected gophers is also possible.

Parks Manager Dick McIntyre and Parks Superintendent Jeff Humpton will hold a meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Spirio Field Parking Lot at Overlook Park in White Rock.

The purpose of the meeting is to visit with the community and let them know why the gophers are becoming a problem and what kind of treatment the county might be considering. In addition, the meeting will give county staff an opportunity to get feedback from the public before they take any action against the gophers this summer.

“Dick and his staff have been dealing with a gopher problem on North Mesa and in White Rock,” Community Services Director Stephani Johnson said. “Traditional methods are not working. It’s become dangerous. People are out on the fields and they could get hurt if they trip or sprain their ankles. It’s become a liability on our fields and we don’t want anyone to get hurt or sick.”

Johnson said McIntyre and his staff are looking into possible solutions to the problem, but would like to get public input before they decided what method to use. One possibility the county is considering is an extermination device called the Rodenator.

According to its website, the Rodenator is manufactured by Meyer Industries, based in Idaho.

The device uses a combination of propane and oxygen, which are pumped into the gophers’ holes. A spark from the device ignites the gas and causes an explosion that collapses the tunnels and kills the rodents.

Johnson said she’s not sure that the public will agree with the use of the Rodenator.

“We were worried about the Rodenator because we worried about whether it was humane,” she said.  “I don’t know how it works, but I do know that it kills the animals and collapses the tunnels, so we don’t have to worry about the trip and fall issues.”

However, there may be little that can be done to humanely remove the gophers.

Rick Stupka, who was recently appointed to the Parks and Recreation Board, is also an invertebrate biologist.

Johnson said that Stupka knows something about the problem and agrees with McIntyre, who believes there’s little that can be done to get rid of the gophers if baiting and trapping is not working.

Those who would like to learn more about, or speak out on the problem are encouraged to attend the Saturday meeting, as it will give residents a chance to voice their opinions about how the gopher problem should be handled.

Questions regarding the gopher problem or the meeting should be directed to Humpton at 662-8159.