Monday, March 24, 2008

Extreme rodent elimination

Via Buckdog, this Time-Colonist report of a gopher hunt gone, well, berserk.
A new gopher-killing tool called the Rodenator is behind a massive grass fire that threatened several homes just west of Calgary on the Easter weekend.

In his 25 years of firefighting, assistant deputy fire Chief Jim Pendergast of the Municipal District of Rocky View said he's never encountered a fire sparked during a gopher hunt.

The Saturday blaze spread rapidly through tinder-dry prairie grasses. Several residents fled their homes as fire crews managed to stop the flames from devouring houses, although some out buildings were lost.

Oddly, I had first heard of this device just a couple of days ago on a CBC radio program discussing the problems encountered by prairie residents with gophers and the various means to control them. When the Rodenator was being described a passing thought went through my mind that this had the potential to create a massive grass fire.

A group of people who were using the Rodenator - which pumps propane and oxygen into a rodent hole and then ignites the mixture to create an underground shock wave or concussion that instantly kills gophers and collapses the tunnel system - could now face a bill for the incident or bylaw charges, including ignoring a fire ban and burning without a permit.
I've never lived in the prairies, but in my occasional forays into the area I've heard short but descriptive stories of the damage gophers can and have done to crops and livestock. And, several years ago I managed to step into a gopher hole in the dark, but that was minor compared to what farmers and ranchers are dealing with. Apparently now, the population is so out-of-control that desperate measures are required.

It might be of some interest that Montana State University Extension Service has some information on gopher control. Whether it's up-to-date or not I would not know, but one line in the information suggests that things like the Rodenator have been tried before and MSU recommends against it.

Fumigation of pocket gopher holes with gasoline, propane or exhaust from an automobile has been reported but is NOT RECOMMENDED because of safety hazards. These methods could result in serious explosions or the placement of toxic fumes in undesirable areas.
It looks like the Rodenator has demonstrated that clearly enough.

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