Gopher traps could provide fast, economical control method
Gophers cause millions of dollars in damage statewide to crops, golf courses, school grounds, and residential yards, but UC IPM Vertebrate Pest Management Advisor Roger Baldwin says trapping could become an important part of an integrated approach for controlling this pest throughout California.
Baldwin and five other researchers have been testing two traps, the Gophinator and the Macabee, studying the capture success rate in covered versus uncovered burrow openings and main versus lateral tunnels. They’ve also studied the influence of factors including the gopher’s age, gender, weight, and species.
“Trapping in uncovered laterals is much quicker and requires fewer traps than trapping in covered main tunnels,” Baldwin said. “If trapping in uncovered laterals is found to be effective, this would greatly reduce the time and cost of (pesticide) application.” So far, the Gophinator is outperforming the Macabee, Baldwin added.
Trapping has been a control method for small populations of gophers for more than a century in California. It is a relatively safe procedure for the person using it compared to applying poison baits and fumigants and is one of the only methods available for controlling gophers in organic crops. Trapping requires little training and provides the added bonus of knowing whether you killed the invading pest.
Baits often don’t reduce populations to low-enough levels, and because they can be dangerous to humans and nontarget animals, they are difficult to use in public settings such as school grounds. Some baits as well as the fumigant aluminum phosphide require an application permit. Fumigants also can be costly and time consuming.
However, much ambiguity still exists regarding trap types and trapping methods, Baldwin said. “For example, many (people) primarily trap in main tunnels of gophers, while others trap almost exclusively in lateral tunnels,” he explained. “Some trappers cover openings after setting tunnels to maintain the illusion that nothing is different in the tunnel, while others keep openings uncovered to encourage exploration by gophers.”
In the second phase of the study, the research team will describe its findings to growers, pest control advisors, landscapers, and homeowners, giving oral presentations and field demonstrations throughout California.
Following the demonstrations, the researchers will survey participants’ reactions to determine if and how they plan to use this information. Results from the trap testing data will become part of the existing Pest Management Guidelines and Pest Notes for gophers. A video with instructions for setting a Macabee trap already is available at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7433.html.
Other project members are Cheryl Wilen, South Coast UC IPM advisor; Dan Marcum, farm advisor, Shasta and Lassen counties; Steve Vasquez, farm advisor, Fresno County; Steve Orloff, county director and farm advisor, Siskiyou County; and Rick Engeman, research biometrician for the National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, Colo.
Funding for this research comes from the UC Extension IPM Demonstration Grants Program.
Roger Baldwin, (559) 646-6583
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