Wild - and Underfoot!
Dec 01, 2015 01:10PM ● Published by Noram Bishop
The California Pocket GopherBy Norma Bishop
Have you ever thought about how many wild animals are right under your feet? Well, if you’re a gardener or the owner of a patch of lush lawn, you probably have.
One of those wild animals is an adversary of many a gardener. California is home to several species of pocket gophers, an animal that can cause damage to vegetable, fruit, and ornamental plants and young shrubs. As “engineered” by nature, the gopher is amazingly well adapted to subterranean life. Equipped with powerfully built forelegs and large-clawed front paws, the gopher has fine, short fur that doesn’t mat in wet soils. Its sensitive facial whiskers help it to find its way in the dark. Knowing it also uses its continuously growing teeth for digging, you might wonder how it doesn’t choke on mouthfuls of dirt. The gopher’s lips can close behind its four large incisor teeth to keep dirt out!
Recently, someone brought an injured gopher to Lindsay’s wildlife rehabilitation hospital. This little gopher had been caught by a cat; it had several wounds as well as a fractured forearm and was obviously suffering.
At Lindsay, we understand that living with wildlife requires a constant balance between the valid interests of people and those of the wildlife we live with. Obviously, commercial agriculture and family and community gardens are a great benefit to all of us. Control of some animal species may be necessary to save certain crops and our home gardens. So, you might ask, why would Lindsay spend time and money to treat an animal that many people consider to be a pest?
We believe that no animal should be left to suffer a lingering and painful death. And our experience informs us that most people would prefer to use the most humane controls possible. Allowing our pets to prey on these animals is not only inhumane to wildlife, but also potentially deadly for our pets. A common control for such wild rodents is toxic bait. We encourage people to avoid use of toxic controls that can be ingested by predators of rodents such as barn owls, who help control rodent populations. Also, the most commonly used toxic baits are grain treated with strychnine or zinc phosphide. Either of these is lethal with a single feeding. These poisons can easily be ingested if your dog or cat finds a gopher that has fed on the treated bait.
If you discover gophers in your yard, please consider creating a habitat for natural predators such as barn owls, and certainly don’t be squeamish about sharing your yard with a gopher snake. If you’d like to know more about gophers, as well as tips on plants they don’t relish, visit Las Pilitas Nursery’s website at http://www.laspilitas.com/animals/thomomys/thomomys-bottae.htm. Las Pilitas specializes in California natives and is a great resource when you’re planning to create native habitat for some of our more desirable wildlife.
And the gopher brought to Lindsay? Our veterinary staff humanely euthanized it because of the extent of its injuries. If you find an animal in need of care, contact the wildlife hotline at Lindsay Wildlife Experience, 925-935-1978. Please visit our website to find out how you can support wildlife rehabilitation: http://lindsaywildlife.org/found-animal/.