Weyburn upping gopher control to address growing population

A pest control officer in southeastern Saskatchewan had a run in with RCMP while hunting gophers earlier this week. Chuck Szmurlo/Wikimedia Commons

The rising gopher population in Weyburn, Sask., has city officials concerned.

The city says the surge in Richardson ground squirrels – more commonly known as gophers – in recent years has resulted in an increase in damage to city and residential land.

“With the lack of rain, they have really taken over and have grown exponentially,” said Weyburn Mayor Marcel Roy. “Even in our cemetery, people have complained to us over the years. We have tried to control them through the years, but again, they have grown exponentially.”

It’s why the municipality has decided to notify its residents that increased gopher control will be taking place within city limits to address the issue.

Gophers are a declared pest in Saskatchewan, ultimately providing municipalities with the power to implement control measures.

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The city’s parks department contracts pest services to perform control measures on city property only.

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According to a statement from Weyburn officials on Wednesday, the contractor has been working on gopher control in several areas of the city since April. The statement adds that control has been challenging as gopher populations from outside city limits have also increased.

In previous years, Weyburn crews usually used a pest control product such as sulfur oxide in gopher burrows, which provides immediate extermination results.

However, due to supply and delivery being delayed because of an increase in demand across Saskatchewan for this and similar products, the city is using a product named Rozol. Gophers ingest this grain-fed pesticide which is placed in the burrow and exterminates the animal a few days later.

“Typically we don’t like to use pesticides, but this is a last resort to avoid further damages associated with gopher population levels,” explained Curtis Block, parks manager for the city of Weyburn. “It was kind of bad last year, but it’s worse this year.”

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With that in mind, the city is warning pet owners to avoid sprayed areas and to always keep pets on leashes when in open parks, green spaces, cemeteries and trails where pesticides have been used.

“There’s a very minimal chance for secondary poisoning, but gophers for the most part will die down in the hole,” Block added. “They can pass away above ground since it takes two to three days, so there is some risk with any pesticide, but it’s minimal.”

Citizens are also encouraged to assist in the city’s pest control efforts by following a set of tips to help keep the animals away from private property.

The parks department suggests options including:

  • eliminating food sources;
  • gas cartridges or traps;
  • spraying with liquid or granular repellants;
  • using barriers such as wire mesh to keep gophers out of gardens; or
  • ultrasonic spikes which use electronic pulses to create irritating sounds to drive gophers away.

The city says the use of poisons or chemicals should be used as a last resort.

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