The Q&A Archives: Gopher Poison

Question: My garden has been devastated by pocket gophers. I have some old "death to gophers" pills which are just plain strychnine. My question is, if I use these pills and some don't get eaten will the poison be absorbed by my vegetables and be a hazard to my family? And if an animal gets hold of a poisoned gopher will it too be poisoned? I'm real hesitant to use this product but everything else has failed. Sonic devices are an expensive joke. HELP!

Answer: I'm just as concerned as you are about the use of strychnine in the garden. To begin with, not knowing how old the product is will make it difficult to determine whether it's lost its effectiveness - or has become unstable and volatile. Secondly, how can you get a gopher to swallow a pill?? We generally recommend that you use a pesticide up according to label directions. But that might not be the best course of action with this particular product. Probably the best solution is to take the poison to a local hazardous waste disposal site and let them deal with it. This will keep the strychnine out of harm's way - and out of your veggie garden. Gophers, and moles for that matter, like to tunnel in soft, rich soil that's teaming with juicy grubs and other tasty insects. So, it's a compliment to your skills as a gardener that they're in such abundance. However, they can be exasperating critters, and difficult to control. The best method of control is trapping. It's labor-intensive, but very effective. Scissors-type traps, properly set, are the most effective of all. First, find the main run. Do this by probing the soil with a sharp stick, beginning at the mound of soil and working out. Once you've found the tunnel that runs the longest distance without ending - or without a mound at the top, you've found the main run. (others are dug off the main run and used for sleeping, waste deposit, or escape). Set the trap in this main run, being careful to exclude outside light. You'll probably catch several in the same spot over a period of days or weeks. If activity increases in other parts of the yard, probe for a main run and set your trap there. Eventually you'll lower the population of gophers.

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