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Gophertarianism? U-Pick Gopher Farm?

 
Roberto pokachinni
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We have a serious gopher colony developing on the land.  The local Mennonites shoot them as an annual spring ritual and they end up moving more and more toward my place.  My understanding is that these creatures reproduce at least twice in a season, and there just doesn't seem to be enough predators around to keep the population from expanding.  We fenced the closer garden dug into the ground with lower gate sills buried so they can't easily get in.  And this fencing project was successful and kept the deer out too, but the rodents have expanded in the meadow to three times the area of the previous year.  The local road maintenance department is supposed to clear the trees out of the ditches but haven't done so for quite a few years, and this dense bush protects all the colony holes that are in the bank of the ditch, and gives them easy cover to cross from the nearest Mennonite field.  Some of the conifer trees in the field have seven or eight holes around each one. \

As a humorous side note: My dad hung the truck keys on a nail on the lower back of the shed so that he knew where to access them, but figures the gophers stole them since the truck was locked to keep the borrowed 22 safe.

So what to do?

I was thinking of hunting and eating the beasts but I was curious if there was any reason not to eat them, besides the fact that they are so damn cute and interesting.  The seem healthy enough, and these are the fattest gophers I've ever seen.

Anybody out there dine on Gophers?
 
Destiny Hagest
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I'm sorry, I have no answers for this one, but I immediately thought of Oh Brother Where Art Thou when I read your post.

I'd be curious to know why not though - back when a friend of mine was repeatedly trapping raccoons, I looked into the safety of eating those guys, and apparently it's a pretty common practice in a few parts of the world. So maybe gophers are just another overlooked, abundant protein source?

A hopelessly cute, big eyed, fuzzy wuzzy food source. I don't know if I'd have it in me or not.
 
C. Hunter
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My dogs would very much like to come visit your Gopher buffet, they think it sounds delicious.

(No, really, on a more practical note, know anybody with a couple of good terriers, or some ferrets?)
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Destiny

That is a great movie.  One of my favorites.  I have eaten squirrels and mice on a primitive survival course so I'm not completely averse to such fare, cute as they may be.  Didn't I see you posting about bow hunting Bambi not too long ago?  Ha ha.

C. Hunter

Yes, Dogs are likely going to be the answer, especially if they will share the gophers!     I haven't looked back into it yet, but a neighbor's dog was due to have pups this fall, and now would be close to time to pick one up.  I'll call him.   I hadn't thought of ferrets.  That might really be the answer, since I also have a serious vole problem in my gardens; this results in serious root crop damage right now.  I do have a resident ermine but he only can eat so many times his body weight every day. and I have 8 to 10 acres of feral meadow, and border on many more which is prime vole territory.
 
C. Hunter
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The thing about ferrets is that your average pet ferret from Petco or whatever is not going to be much use for hunting. People who hunt with ferrets are a thing in some parts of the US, but they're kind of hard to find. Worth seeking out though.
 
Destiny Hagest
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Haha yes Roberto, I am definitely not above eating the cute and fuzzy Meat's expensive! Let us know if you try it! Maybe we can get a gopher recipe thread going.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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If the gophers eat "clean " food, they should be clean food themselves.  It's a lot of skinning for a few morsels, though, which might be why they are not a commonly eaten food in the affluent nations.  When people are hungry,  gophers seem a viable food source to me.

Farley Mowat in his book about wolves reports having eaten mice whole rather than skin them and gut them.  In that case I think I would try to swallow them whole, but it seems gophers (unless very young) would be too big.  Mowat does describe the health and condition of the wolves he observed, and his observations of the number of mice being eaten per hundred + pound wolf.  His observations were what prompted him to eat mice, and I think he did try to skin and gut them at first.  I think his conclusion was that it was too much work to get enough mouse protein doing it that way.   I think he said even the bones were digested by digestive processes.

I lived for a time in a place where the ground did not freeze and the top soil was 12 feet deep.  The gophers were beyond plentiful.  I moved there with my cats, one of whom was a killing machine.  I watched her catch gopher after gopher.  Day after day.  It was months before she took up hunting on neighboring properties because the numbers gophers on our acre had decreased so much .  Not all cats are as effective hunters as my Topaz, RIP.  Once I saw her crouched next to a gopher hole, and suddenly, she had plunged her "arm" down the hole to her shoulder, and pulled it out, having hooked a gopher with her claws.  The gopher landed close by, and she pounced and grabbed and shook.  A tiny lion in action.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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I have never skinned a gopher but I did wonder if there was a market for their hide as well as consuming the meat and using the rest for compost. I expect they are similar to a weasel, mink, muskrat or other small fur bearer. My older friend who has done a lot of trapping/skinning use to refer to muskrats as the easiest money in the bush based on numbers and time required to process an animals fur for sale. I expect gophers would be in that category, fairly easy and not very time consuming. The farm show magazine had an article years ago about the developer of a gopher trap, easy to set and cheap to make. He removed 6000, yes that is a 6 with three zeroes, gophers from a 30ish acre field after they ruined a years crop. Most say that with a large infestation if you set dozens of traps you will hear the first ones triggering before the last are set. That would be good if you wanted to both eat the animal and harvest the hide.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Those sound like mighty effective traps.  I've always had difficulties trapping gophers.

I am not so sure skinning would be worth the time, though, or the skins worth having.  My thinking is that since they live underground, they don't need the kind of coat that protects water animals from cold and wet, nor surface animals from cold snow and wind.  All the gophers I have ever seen are not more than 5-6 inches long, I don't think they would yield more than 4 inch by four inch pelt, if even that large, and the fur is not long or deep or thick.  Still, as I said that is just my thinking process, and my experience in the places I have lived with gophers.

Interesting idea, though.  I guess  it would depend on how much time a person had to skin stretch and salt gopher pelts whether it would be worth a person's time.
 
jared strand
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I'm assuming you mean "13 lined ground squirrels", because a pocket gopher is anything but cute.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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photos would do well here.  i was going to copy paste but it's more complicated than i can do right now
 
Michael Bazinet
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Andrew Zimmern, " Bizarre Foods" had an episode, dealing with gophers. I believe he was visiting some Native Americans.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I see no reason for not eating them.
They eat better than any animal sold un a supermarket!

Just as guinea pigs (cuys) you can remove the hair, thus NOT SKIN THEM.
Just boil wáter and put them in and out.

You can also try to cover them with clay and bake them, may be use ambers of your fire.... When they are done, just break the Shell and eat inside.
If you put the clay in the hairs, they will stay stuck!
 
Julia Winter
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Thekla McDaniels wrote: The gophers were beyond plentiful.  I moved there with my cats, one of whom was a killing machine.  I watched her catch gopher after gopher.  Day after day.  It was months before she took up hunting on neighboring properties because the numbers of gophers on our acre had decreased so much .  Not all cats are as effective hunters as my Topaz, RIP.

It sounds like what you need is an awesome cat.  A good terrier would also be very effective, I think.  Gophers would make a very good diet for either a domestic cat or a dog, my only concern would be parasites.
 
Lori Ziemba
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Ivy, 18# of pure, gopher-killing terror.
20150220_220528.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20150220_220528.jpg]
Ivy
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Julia Winter wrote:
It sounds like what you need is an awesome cat.  A good terrier would also be very effective, I think.  Gophers would make a very good diet for either a domestic cat or a dog, my only concern would be parasites.


About the parasites, my cats never had a problem with any gopher related thing.  My cats are always as close to feral as I can get them, the house cat mother and roaming tom... and then I keep them for several generations until I lose a line.  that's always heartbreaking, but so is life.

Robust stock is one key, and the other is to develop a tolerance for a level of digestive parasites, like tape worms.   They will always have those as long as they eat mice and such.  My sister worms her cats, I don't.  They all seem healthy.

Bubonic plague is carried by fleas on rats (I think).  I guess that is kind of scary, except that, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of house cats in the US, maybe millions.  If even half of them go out doors, that is still a lot of cats with the opportunity to bring parasites home to their people.  They have the chance to be exposed to flea carrying rodents and there is almost no incidence of plague in modern times that I know of.  The plague does not spring from nowhere.  I think it needs live hosts/doesn't survive in the soil/ if the fleas don't get or have the plague, they can't pass it along, or hop to the cat from the rat, and then to the people...

If the parasites do bother a person, then people can do as my sister does, and worm the cats.  They can be fearsome predators!  I think that is what some people don't like aobut them.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Wow, thanks for all the posts and for putting this in the Paul's/'Permies daily email, AND a couple apples ta boot!-who'da thunk? !!!  

My thinking is that since they live underground, they don't need the kind of coat that protects water animals from cold and wet, nor surface animals from cold snow and wind. 
  These are my thoughts as well.  I doubt they would have as oily a coat as a meat eating mink or a water dwelling musk rat.  I've never heard of ANYBODY anywhere selling gopher hides.  Might make tough little gloves though.  I do have some tanning experience.  I'm going to get off permies and search out that trap design right now, before I comment further.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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So I checked out several of the Farm Show Magazine's articles on gopher traps and didn't see any for sale, and although one gave a pretty good photo, there is no description on how to make it.  The one says the machinist who built it, made all his own hydraulic jigs to bend the steel.  Not sure I'm up for that at the moment.  If anybody can sort out the making of one of these, or a dozen... let me know. 

Lori Z:  I sure could use a terrier of terror, but Ivy seems a bit too far away to be helpful. 

And Yeah... a cat or three would be handy too... although I'm still leaning toward ferrets for some reason.  I haven't looked into that yet. 

Thekla:
They have the chance to be exposed to flea carrying rodents and there is almost no incidence of plague in modern times that I know of.  The plague does not spring from nowhere.  I think it needs live hosts/doesn't survive in the soil/ if the fleas don't get or have the plague, they can't pass it along, or hop to the cat from the rat, and then to the people...


I searched a bit and found this at the Center for Disease Control: "The bacteria that cause plague, Yersinia pestis, maintain their existence in a cycle involving rodents and their fleas. In urban areas or places with dense rat infestations, the plague bacteria can cycle between rats and their fleas. The last urban outbreak of rat-associated plague in the United States occurred in Los Angeles in 1924-1925.

Since that time, plague has occurred in rural and semi-rural areas of the western United States, primarily in semi-arid upland forests and grasslands where many types of rodent species can be involved. Many types of animals, such as rock squirrels, wood rats, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, mice, voles, and rabbits can be affected by plague. Wild carnivores can become infected by eating other infected animals.

Scientists think that plague bacteria circulate at low rates within populations of certain rodents without causing excessive rodent die-off. These infected animals and their fleas serve as long-term reservoirs for the bacteria. This is called the enzootic cycle.

Occasionally, other species become infected, causing an outbreak among animals, called an epizootic. Humans are usually more at risk during, or shortly after, a plague epizootic. Scientific studies have suggested that epizootics in the southwestern United States are more likely during cooler summers that follow wet winters. Epizootics are most likely in areas with multiple types of rodents living in high densities and in diverse habitats."

Interestingly, I had mentioned that I had eaten mice and squirrels at a Survival School.  The only person who ever died during trips at the Survival School before I was there was due to eating a squirrel which had the plague. (there was apparently another death since I was there, due to someone dying of dehydration.)  Info on both deaths can be searched on the web.  The plague squirrel was years before my time at the school.  Everybody else on the trip apparently noticed this squirrel acting strangely around there camp and the instructors warned that it was not a healthy looking creature and for people not to trap it, but this guy did, cooked it, ate it, and died.  Not that I think this is an issue so much.  Like I said, on the 28 day survival course I ate mice and squirrels without issue in an area that I knew contained the plague and where I knew someone died of the plague. Tony Nestor of Ancient Pathways (another Survival school operating in Arizona) is quoted in New York times article as saying:  “You can’t be squeamish about it. It’s a good thing our ancestors weren’t or we wouldn’t be here today. Mice are too small to skin, so you just throw them on the fire and eat them whole. Rats you throw on for 30 seconds to burn off bubonic plague, lice and parasites and then skin them."



 
Thekla McDaniels
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Wow, Robert, you are really looking into everything related to this gopher eating idea.  I guess it doesn't really matter if you are talking about the ones I know as gophers (pocket gophers, with pouches in their cheeks) or the cute fuzzy chipmunks or possibly ground squirrels someone mentioned above, but do you know which gophers you have?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Everyone just calls them gophers around here.  They are cute and they whistle to warn each other.  I'll try to find out what species we have here.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I'm pretty sure what I have here is a Columbian Ground Squirrel.  Here's A Link to check em out.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Ah, I know nothing about that guy.  Here is the one I am familiar with:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gopher
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Yeah.  I thought so.  My critters are twice to three times as big as those.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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In BC those are ground squirrels, or prairie dogs, as far as I know. 

Sounds like time for a barbecue.

The things you learn on permies!

I was also thinking you might be able to convey to the Mennonites that it's not really Christian or communitarian of them to shoot all the "gophers"/squirrels on their land--maybe they'd be open to a more permacultural solution.  Maybe trapping them and using them? maybe designing a bit differently so they're not attracting so many to begin with?  I would think there's a lot of common ground with Mennonite values and permaculture.

Roberto pokachinni wrote:I'm pretty sure what I have here is a Columbian Ground Squirrel.  Here's A Link to check em out.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I would think there's a lot of common ground with Mennonite values and permaculture. 
  I would have thought so too, in the past.  Sadly, this local branch of the sect seem pretty bent on making money more than anything else, and although they do have some down to earth values, they don't seem to have much environmental/permacultural common sense.  The close farm/colony is a dairy operation, and they regularly kill wolves, coyotes... and sadly some grizzly bears (Here's the Story)...these I know about.  They probably also kill the birds of prey and anything that might kill a calf.  The gophers are killed because the holes can break a cow's leg. 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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not really Christian or communitarian of them to shoot all the "gophers"/squirrels on their land--maybe they'd be open to a more permacultural solution.  Maybe trapping them and using them? maybe designing a bit differently so they're not attracting so many to begin with?  I would think there's a lot of common ground with Mennonite values and permaculture.
  There is not enough time in their world to shoot all the squirrels.  They do make a go of it though.  There is no design to eliminate gophers/ground squirrels that I know of, short of multiple heavy discing when the animals are just coming out of hibernation... or use of predators to keep the population in check. These folks do the opposite, by killing the predators.  This valley was teaming with way more of them in the past, and poison was widely used at that time to knock the population down.  Now the poison is banned (although it is available in rat free Alberta, I hear... not that I'm interested at all), and the population has expanded since the ban. 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I have considered infiltrating the local flock and becoming a preacher, but that's off topic. 
 
Don Eggleston
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Great thread.  I've never eaten one, but I used to mount their little heads.  At one point I had fifteen gophers, three moles and a vole.  It made me feel warm inside every time I looked at the little decapitated buggers.  They are the devils of the animal world, much like foxtails (in central CA) are of the plant world.
 
William Bronson
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Eating them seems like a bit of a bother,but we know what to do with food we ourselves can't digest,can't stomach,or is inconvenient to harvest.
Feed it to other animals,and eat the products they produce.
I bet chickens would love all that extra protein,and lay quite well.
I suspect swine might hunt these creatures themselves,but they might make a mess of the land in the process.
Running gopher protein through a domestic animal is like turning bits of unspeakable flesh into sausage. Marginal into magnificent.
 
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