I’ve been setting traps for weeks, baiting them with fat organic baby carrots. Early morning and again at dusk, I check the traps and scrutinize the war zone for new incursions, the fluffed random mounds of fresh-dug dirt that are my chief crop this season. I imagine soldiers in Iraq examining the roadside, trying to decide if a certain pile of trash belongs, or holds within its core uncalled, explosive death. This one is wrong, they might say—don’t know why but it’s wrong. So am I with the mounds—this one could be new, housing the enemy beneath innocent-appearing earth.
When I find one, I become an archaeologist, digging out the tunnel gently with a slender trowel. I arm the trap, position it, and back the trigger off to feather-light: perfect! The gophers, though, are smarter: every trap is empty, no carrots anywhere in sight. It seems aliens have spirited the treats away, leaving my lovely, lethal traps to wait in silent longing for their return.
There aren’t a lot of good alternatives. Poisons damage the environment. Vibrating stakes marketed to drive the tunnelers away just plain don’t work. Owls and hawks patrol nearby, but often prefer rabbits and baby raccoons. My indoor felines, busy napping, are no help.
Why stress over gophers? I don’t want to be in the gopher theme park business, my yard a maze of ankle-turning cavities devoid of all that’s green, or flowering, or fruitful. There’s also selfishness—I’m the one planting these vegetables, berries, and fruit trees. I’m willing to share with all my neighbors, but I deserve some of the bounty, right? A friend of mine talks to his gophers, seeking peaceful coexistence. He says it works, but I’m not convinced: these guys are ruthless, and don’t seem inclined to compromise. Until they do, I’ll keep working the traps.