The Gopher Express

Gopher-Living in the country, one gets used to wildlife. Rabbits help themselves to our garden, deer prune our fruit trees  and raccoons savage our trash can. I take them all in stride.

All that is – except gophers. Gophers and I do not get along.

I have four acres of pasture and the state set aside four hundred acres of prairie next door but in all that turf – do you think you could find a single gopher? 

Not a one.

Which is odd because the lawn behind my pond suddenly became infected with them and I had no idea how they got there. They just showed up for no reason like zits on the morning before prom.

It is embarrassing…  I have a reputation for taking pride in my place  – which is why my neighbors now like to slow down and chuckle as they drive past.

Not knowing what to do, I called one of them. “How do you get rid of gophers?” I asked.

“You got GOPHERS!” he cried, barely able to contain his excitement

“Uh yes, I do…”

“Me and the militia will be right over. We LOVE to shoot gophers”

“Uh, let’s put that idea on hold until I talk to a few more people…,” I told him.  Gauging from the deep sigh on the other end of the line, I probably broke his heart.

So I talked it around.

Everyone had their techniques and while no one else suggested a posse, all the solutions were equally as violent.

The consensus was this. If you didn’t poison them, you could snap their little necks with traps or possibly stink them out with sulfur gas. My personal favorite was to pump gasoline down the holes, light a fuse and run like hell. I had hoped for something less gruesome. But then I recalled an old trick I used as a kid when my hamster got out of his cage.

I found a five gallon plastic bucket and covered the bottom with bird seed. Then I rigged up a screen to allow the little guys to crawl up the outside of the bucket and drop inside to where the seed was.

I put the trap out that evening.

In the morning, there was a gopher in the bucket, and I might add, a hefty little fellow. So he and I took a car ride together. We drove about two miles down the road, where I released him in a field full of gopher holes, so he could play with his buddies.

The next morning, there he was, his cheeks stuffed with seeds, grinning at me from the bottom of my bucket. I drove him back home.

The next morning, he returned.

Now, I know what you are thinking. How can you tell one gopher from another? I asked myself the same question.  The answer is – that toothy grin – but just to be sure, I took a paint brush and dabbed a blob of red paint on his belly before chauffeuring him back down the road.

The next morning, there he was again – red paint and all.

That’s when it dawned on me.

I called up my militia buddy. “Hey,” I said, “beside me, who won’t let you shoot gophers on their property?”

“Leon Forbes. He’s a catch and release woosie, just like you.”

“Where does he live?”

“Two miles north of your place, back in the trees behind the ground with all the gophers in it.”


“Yeah, he’s some kind of pacifist.”

“Explains a lot.”

“Sure does…”

So that night, I made a stencil.

The next morning, when I pulled the little guy out of the bucket, I slapped the stencil on his back and gave him a shot of red spray paint. He was no worse for the wear when I let him go at Leon’s.

That was the end of my gopher problem. I think Leon suddenly got the idea to release his pests somewhere else – but I would have loved to watch him check his live trap and read: “Property of Leon Forbes” on the back of a gopher.

Author: Almost Iowa

38 thoughts on “The Gopher Express”

  1. Enjoyed it, as I have had my battles with mice and chipmunks several times in the past. Unfortunately, it always ended badly (for the critters), ’cause my garage is no one’s domain but mine.

    1. ’cause my garage is no one’s domain but mine.

      I tried reasoning with the local wildlife – but they insisted they were here first. We argued for some time before Scooter and the cats put an end to all discussion.

  2. Another funny idea and execution. Did not know what the resolution would be, and really enjoyed the ending on this one.

    We had a house mouse once when I was a girl that my dad planned to set a trap for in our downstairs powder room.

    “No! No!” protested we kids, thinking it cruel.

    The trap worked. But the poor little mousie was still alive, neck twisted and seemingly broken. My dad was going to kill it, to put it out of its misery.

    “No! No!”

    So he let it go, outside, telling us it would die anyway.

    The next morning, we heard a scrabbling in that same powder room. Mousie was back. He had managed to climb the slick plastic sides of a wastebasket, and was peering hopefully up at us all from the bottom.

    Outside he went.

    The next morning, same thing.

    The next morning, same thing.

    Sadly, there was no fourth repeat. Perhaps he finally found a mousie haven, but more likely, a cat found him a mousie heaven.

    1. Perhaps he finally found a mousie haven, but more likely, a cat found him a mousie heaven.

      I spotted a great poster a while back, it read: “Come to the dark side. We have cookies.” It might explain what happened to your mouse.

  3. I love it. Our issues have been with possums. But there’s nothing cute about them and I line up with your militia neighbors.

    1. We have a few possums around here. The ugliest critters I have ever seen. I don’t think I would like to trap one. I’d call the posse too.

      1. Some of us think they’re adorable. When they lead their little babies down out of trees and across busy roads here at night, looking both ways first, it is too cute. As long as one isn’t cornered, or coming into my pantry, I’m happy to see ’em. They eat nasty bugs, too.

  4. There must be something he likes in your backyard. By the way, what does “DNR” stand for besides “Do Not Resuscitate”?

    1. The acronym DNR stands for a Minnesota State Department known as The Do Not Resuscitate. Other people call it, The Department of Natural Resources. At first I was enthusiastic about having them for neighbors… until my other neighbors said they are exceptionally difficult to get a long with. I have read the signs they put up at the edge of my property, and they do not seem very friendly.

  5. Like zits on a teenager the morning before prom is one fine simile you writ there.I am going to have to give you an A – for your excellent essay here. It isn’t what I asked but as my gramps used to say, “It’ll do.” You would have gotten a A+ if you had written on the assigned material of what you did on your summer vacation. That and if you had somehow gotten Stan into your gopher story. But like gramps said again, “That’s a different box of chocolates altogether.”

    1. Hmmmm, since I am retired, I’m not sure what I could write about a summer vacation… I mean, how can you take vacation from a vacation?

  6. Your story reminds me of the guy whom my husband caught releasing rabbits into the park up the hill and next to our property. Yeah, like we don’t need more rabbits in our neighborhood, Mister. So please don’t release them here.

    Great ending to your story, BTW. That’s your signature, those zinger conclusions.

    1. LIZ!!

      Think about what you are saying!! That I should transport a gopher, the very symbol of Minnesota, to a place whose mascot is a hawk. Gasp!!

  7. OK, now I have to watch Caddyshack again. “If I kill all the golfers, won’t that be a problem?” We have a very small bit of land in a tight suburban neighborhood, but I’ve relocated varmints to a park across town. Guess I’m a woosie too. Great post!

  8. Interesting tale…good thing you don’t kill them. We have recently moved into a town and while we don’t have acres and acres like you do the garden is of a very good size. My wife has done so much work on it and it is beginning to look the business…save for the local cats who take it upon themselves to shit everywhere. None of our neighbours have this problem and we have tried everything from coffee dregs to copper wiring things. Nothing works. Any ideas?

    1. Try using wolf urine. Seriously. Should be able to get it at an outdoors store. Friend used it and it worked.

      1. Thank you yet in this Hellfire Corner of England wolf urine is as rare as rocking horse shit! I shall ask around…much appreciated

        1. Our free-range outdoor pet bunnies kept all the cats out of our yard. (It was always funny to watch a vicious street-toughened cat get the fear of Hades put into her/him by a cuddly bunny instantly flipped into Satan’s spawn.) Then again, the cuddly bunnies ate all of our beautiful flowers, too. I wish I’d known then about the wolf urine.

          1. Well this wolf urine does seem just the ticket…problem is we haven’t had wolves in England these 200 years gone! I wonder if I could tempt an urban fox in…might work!

            1. I have been giggling after reading Amazon reviews for wolf urine (you’ll see what I mean), hoping to find that an online supplier could solve your problem, but alas: The few serious reviews report effectiveness against every animal EXCEPT cats. Now I am wondering: Given that our bunnies truly did scare the p#ss out of stray cats, and England has tons o’ bunny-lovers–can a supply of bunny urine be scouted and tried? Worth a shot. The smell is…bracing, but can’t be worse than wolf, and worth it if it works. Marketable, too, one would think. Cut me in for a share 🙂 Best of luck with the horrid and frustrating problem. Don’t forget Hav-a-Hart traps–one can catch and release all sorts of critters.

              1. I am very grateful to you…you needn’t have but you did and it is thus you have my thanks. That said our neighbour has told my wife that he has tried everything to prevent the cats using his garden as a toilet…oddly the owner of the cats (we have determined there are three) merely grinned and said, ‘They never make a mess in our garden’…odd thing that!

                1. Don’t mention it.

                  Not odd at all that the owners feel no sense of responsibility for the harm their irresponsibility causes: Not only the mess, but (1) serious disease risk to pregnant women, children, and elderly; (2) serious infection risk to swimmers from water pollution caused by uncollected cat (and dog) fecal contamination from rain runoff; (3) serious environmental harm from the destruction of beneficial small animals which include not only rats and mice, but other four-footed furries, as well as countless lizards and birds; (4) stomach-turning smells when cats aren’t neutered or spayed.

                  Can you tell this is one of my sixty-five million “pet” peeves?

                  1. I may have to wait…he’s a plumber and presently doing tons of work in this old place we’ve just moved into! Mind…when the job is done the rules change!

    2. I built a six foot fence around our garden. It is the only thing that will keep the critters out. But I would ask, if you chase the cats away, who will come to the garden to play? Mice and rabbits, most likely.

      1. Cheers…it’s the shitting we don’t like…started when they took a shine to her aubergine plants of all things. They never use weeds as a toilet I note, always her much prized stuff!

  9. This reminds me of an editorial cartoon I read in the London (Ontario) Free Press during a time when the squirrel population in downtown Victoria Park was at an all-time high. The drawing showed two critters standing outside a baited trap. They were dressed in vacation gear, with picnic baskets and the like. One asks the other “When does the next bus to Victoria Park come by?”

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