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2011 Highlights: UC IPM Annual Report

Macabee gopher trap
Setting a Macabee gopher trap. Photo by W. P. Gorenzel.

Roles of training and experience in pocket gopher control studied

IN BRIEF

  • Pocket gopher trappers can quickly gain expertise after only a few days of trapping experience.
  • Training programs can improve skills in trapping and using baits.
  • An IPM program that uses trapping with other methods is recommended.

Since baiting and trapping are important for effective pocket gopher control programs, UC IPM Advisor Roger Baldwin conducted research to discover the impact of experience and thorough training on the success rate of pest managers.

In the study, after just three days on the job, novice trappers were able to capture 92% of the number of pocket gophers caught by an expert trapper, while individuals who received a thorough training program on how to apply poison baits were consistently more successful in reducing gopher populations than those who received less extensive training.

There is no substitute for experience when trapping just about any animal. However, this study showed that pocket gophers can be effectively trapped with relatively little experience, thereby increasing the utility of this management option for controlling pocket gophers. Likewise, the gains from a thorough training program for the application of gopher baits are important, since typical training might be only 15 minutes long and cover only the basics of how to identify gopher mounds, how to locate tunnel systems, how to dispense bait via the bait application probe, and how often to apply bait per burrow system.

While baiting can provide a relatively quick method for treating a large number of gopher burrow systems, even with proper training, baiting alone may still not attain the level of control needed to effectively manage gopher populations. Based on the high success rate of well-trained novice trappers and the absence of secondary toxicity with trapping, Baldwin recommends that trapping be considered as part of an IPM program for controlling gophers.

Pocket gophers are one of the most damaging wildlife pests in California. Baiting is generally considered quicker to apply than trapping, but trapping is more likely to reduce populations below an economic threshold.

UC IPM's Extension IPM Demonstration Grants Program funded the training study, while Cooperative Extension advisors John Roncoroni, Rhonda Smith, and Steven Swain collaborated on the project.

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