Mark versus gofer: A battle of wit
I learned a valuable lesson when dealing with gophers: always check your surroundings.
The worst nightmare occurred at Brock Veterinary Clinic. Gofers had invaded the lameness pad. I got to work one morning and noticed mounds of dirt neatly piled up in the area we trot horses to evaluate lameness. These rascals dig sub-terrain tunnels so shallow that if a horse steps over the top of one, it will cave in and possibly break a leg.
Trouble in paradise
Now I don’t condone killing any creature. I went to veterinary school to learn how to fix critters, not harm them. However, we also can’t have horses breaking their legs during a lameness evaluation because of some hardheaded and elusive gofers who chose to dig up the area. So, I set out to run them off. My first attempt to rid the land of them was by using gas capsules. I had hoped the terrible smell would make them head to the vacant pasture. Instead, they just built more holes.
I then tried putting garlic in the holes. Yes, you read that right. I went to the grocery store and purchased 10 lbs. of garlic cloves, dug up the entrance to the burrows, put in 5 or 6 cloves, and then covered it up. Alas, they just dug even more holes. I even tried pouring a gallon of bleach in the hole...they just dug more holes. Okay, time to get serious. I cannot have horses breaking their legs trotting at the clinic. Now, it is war.
The clinic is located on a highly traveled road that runs through the center of Lamesa. Every evening I would be on the lameness pad digging holes and trash-talking gofers. It never crossed my mind that people passing by would even notice me. But my pal Mark did. Oh boy, did he.
Declaration of war
Because I didn’t want to use poison, I decided to go with traps. (Yes, there are many types of traps that you can purchase that will snare, pinch, poke, or grab a gofer.) I purchased several different types of traps and went to work putting them in place.
It had become somewhat of a ritual for me. I would set the traps in the evening when I left the clinic, and then I would check them early in the morning before things got busy. Around 8 o’clock every evening I was digging and rooting through the lameness pad and then again around 7 o’clock every morning I was back and checking things out.
I wasn't having one stroke of luck. Those gofers kept outsmarting me and it was infuriating. I had already gone through 4 different trap styles and now I was on trap type number 5 (and having high hopes). I had attached 6 of those traps to a 6-foot piece of baling wire before placing them in the gofer tunnels. I left that evening feeling optimistic.
The next morning, I entered the lameness pad bright and shiny. I began digging up the new traps. The first 2 had nothing. As I approached the third trap, I noticed it looked different than the last 2—could I have finally got one of those rascals?
The dirt was really packed around this trap. I was feeling good about it, this was the moment I had been waiting for. For so long, these gofers had outsmarted me—I figured they were hosting meetings as a group every afternoon and made fun of me for being such a buffoon.
My heart was racing as I followed the wire down into the tunnel. It was packed with dirt and hard to move. I dug gently as I pulled. I could see signs that something had packed the dirt. As I was uncovering the trap more and more, I started to see some hair. These gofers were not gonna’ best me this time. I was about to dig up the first victim of my “gofer eradication program.”
Something was wrong. The hair I first saw caught in the trap was attached to something that didn’t resemble a gofer. It was sort of pink and felt way too firm to be a dead gofer. The more I pulled, the more I realized that this was no gofer at all. In fact, I had no idea what it might be.
I was removing dirt slow and carefully. The more I removed, the more I knew that I had been outsmarted again. This thing, whatever it was, ain’t no gofer. And once I removed more of the dirt, I had even more questions.
Victory? Not so much...
Are you kidding me? I had snagged a naked Barbie doll with gopher-colored hair? Where did that come from? I looked around. I just knew these gofers were peering out another hole somewhere and laughing their tails off at what they had just done to me.
A few days later I got a call from my buddy Mark. He asked if I had caught anything unusual in a gofer trap. He said he had seen me digging around every morning and evening while he drove by and decided to give me a surprise one night. All he could say was he wished he had been there to see me dig it up.
Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.