A Richardson’s ground squirrel, also known as a gopher.

Penhold plagued by gophers

Huge gopher boom is creating lots of holes and attracting wild animals

Torrington has the gopher museum.

Penhold just has gophers — lots of them.

“We’ve always had a bit of a gopher issue there,” said Mayor Mike Yargeau on Thursday. “But for whatever reason, whether the good breeding season was good for gophers or what, it’s just skyrocketed.”

The critters, which in central Alberta are usually Richardson’s ground squirrels, have been swarming all over the southeast part of town, along the banks of Penhold’s storm pond.

“They’re getting into people’s yards and they pose a hazard to the community, too. People use that green space and we have a playground going in there.

“This year has been bad. I’ve had pictures sent to me by residents and there are gophers as far as the eye can see.”

Besides creating holes all over the place, the gophers’ burrows are creeping into homeowners’ yards.

While considered a pest by humans, gophers are seen as dinner by many predators.

“Because of the gophers, we have more wild animals coming into town this year. We’ve noticed an increase in foxes coming to town,” Yargeau said, adding coyotes and large birds are also attracted by Penhold’s well-stocked gopher buffet.

“The food’s here, right? You can’t blame them for coming,” he said.

“All that stuff leads to domestic animals going missing or kids potentially getting hurt.”

A few cats have gone missing in the area. While there is no proof the influx of gopher hunters is to blame, it has some residents a little worried.

“We needed to do something about it this year.”

Unlike other green spaces in town, which are surrounded by homes and are gopher-free, the southeast corner of town is next to a farmer’s field.

To get a handle on the gopher situation, council approved funding to contract a pest control company. Further money was set aside to have an ongoing check and control system in place for next year to ensure the problem has been solved.

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