Gopher tournament draws hunters, critics


PDA






Drizzt
March 6, 2003, 05:48 PM
National Post (f/k/a The Financial Post)

March 6, 2003 Thursday National Edition

SECTION: Canada; Pg. A5

LENGTH: 528 words

HEADLINE: Gopher tournament draws hunters, critics: Rifle top prize for most kills

SOURCE: National Post

BYLINE: Charlie Gillis

BODY:
Buoyed by keen interest outside their province and deaf to criticism from animal-rights activists, organizers of Saskatchewan's annual gopher derby are about to turn varmint-hunting into a national pastime.

Officials with the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation are inviting hunters from across the country to participate in their controversial event this spring -- especially those in Alberta and Manitoba, where the bothersome rodents abound.

Sharpshooters who bag gophers will qualify for a series of prizes, including three .22-calibre Winchester rifles.

"So keep those kids busy," said Len Jabush of the federation, which oversees the hunt. "Keep 'em off the street and out of trouble...

"About the only thing you have to be concerned about are firearms laws and landowner permission."

Launched in response to Saskatchewan's exploding gopher population, the Ken Turcot Memorial Gopher Derby attracted 221 participants last year, who killed more than 60,000 gophers between April 1 and June 23.

Each contestant was required to provide proof of his kills in the form of gopher tails.

The winner, a farmer from Assiniboia, Sask., turned in 6,271 -- about 200 more than the runner-up.

But the contest attracted bitter criticism from animal-rights groups in central Canada, who found the whole thing barbaric and childish.

Michael O'Sullivan, executive director of the Humane Society of Canada, said the event made Saskatchewan residents look like "trigger-happy, slack-jawed yokels."

"I think they ought take up knitting instead," Mr. O'Sullivan added yesterday during an interview.

"The only reason people are doing it is because they think it's fun, and I don't think that's the kind of thing you want to be teaching your children."

Others noted organizers were not even using the animals' proper name, the Richardson Ground Squirrel.

Unfazed, Mr. Jabush and his team have altered and expanded the contest this year to include three categories of contestants: individual, parent-child and teams of two.

The entry fee is $20 ($40 for the team category), and each contestant receives a $5 gift certificate for ammunition.

The derby runs from May 1 until Aug. 31, and anyone who gets a gopher tail will be automatically entered in the draw for prizes. Every 50 tails collected thereafter will qualify a contestant for another ticket in the draw, meaning shooters can increase their odds by killing more animals.

The grand-prize winner will receive a $3,000 Browning .243-calibre rifle equipped with a high-powered scope.

The organizers will, however, need some buy-in from regional governments in the other provinces.

To that end, they have sent letters to all the municipalities in Alberta and Manitoba, as well as to regional municipalities in Ontario, asking them to count tails and fax the results at the end of the summer.

While the threat gophers pose in Ontario is unclear, the Prairie provinces have struggled to control vast colonies of the creatures speckling their farmlands. Some farmers have lost livestock that broke their legs stepping in gopher holes, while others have lost crops to the animals' ravenous appetites.

If you enjoyed reading about "Gopher tournament draws hunters, critics" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
Sven
March 6, 2003, 07:49 PM
"The only reason people are doing it is because they think it's fun, and I don't think that's the kind of thing you want to be teaching your children."

No, that's not that only reason people are doing it. Go back to your knitting.

-s

Ted Bell
March 7, 2003, 10:34 AM
I have many fond memories of gopher hunting on the Alberta prairies as a boy. Gophers as far as the eye could see. :)

JohnDog
March 7, 2003, 04:23 PM
License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations. Man, free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit - ever. They're like the Viet Cong - Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior firepower and superior intelligence. And that's all she wrote.

Double Naught Spy
March 7, 2003, 11:13 PM
Of course what most of these idiots don't realize is that killing off gophers or ground squirrels (whichever it may be) is not a benefit to the prairie. Assuming they are gophers, gophers actually provide a significant role in bioturbating the upper layers of the soil which brings air and nutrients down deeper into the soil than would get there otherwise. While perceived as a threat, they actually make the grasslands more productive.

Another significant issue is that these little guys (gophers or squirrels) are part of the ecosystem and are the prey for various predatory animals. Lose the prey and the predators are forced to try new things and then you start seeing problems with livestock being attacked that otherwise would not.

Of course, probably part of the reason that the rodent populations are being so problematic is that the idiot landowners have erradicated most of the natural predators and so the rodent populations are only kept in check by food supply and disease...which means you end up with large population explosions that are followed by population crashes.

As for livestock stepping on holes and breaking their legs, gimme a break! What a load of crap. Uneven, turbated, and potholed terrain is something that livestock instinctively know how to deal with as do the wild counterparts such as bison, deer, pronghorn, caribou, elk, etc.

As for the livestock stepping in the holes and getting broken legs, keep in mind that the Richardson Ground Squirrel and gophers actually dig fairly narrow tunnels. It won't be easy for a cow to get its leg into a ground squirrel or gopher hole. I think they are probably confusing these animals and burrows with those produced by prairie dogs that are much larger in diameter. Even so, the livestock can handle them.

If you enjoyed reading about "Gopher tournament draws hunters, critics" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!