County of Stettler wants to develop gopher ‘specialist’ list

Spring is in the air! A Richardson Grounds Squirrel, commonly identified as the classic prairie dog/gopher was spotted east of Irma near Fayban on Wed. March 25, 2020.This furry animal is one of 21 species of ground squirrels found in North America, all of which live in and on the ground. Image courtesy of Desirée Braconnier
Written by Stu Salkeld

The County of Stettler Ag Service Board (ASB) has been asked to look into developing a list of specialists or contractors who trap, shoot or otherwise control a ubiquitous farm pest. The decision was made at the April 26 regular ASB meeting.

The ASB is comprised of members of county council and the meeting was chaired by Coun. Dave Grover.

Board members were listening to the regular report of Agriculture Services Manager Quentin Beaumont when the topic of pest control was mentioned, especially gophers.

Beaumont was describing which pesticides, or poisons, were available to producers through the County of Stettler this summer.

Readers should note the issue of pesticides has been front and centre in most farm communities since 2020 when Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency essentially began the process of banning the use of strychnine for agricultural pest control, a poison some producers felt was the most affordable and effective.

Coun. James Nibourg asked if there were contractors or specialists available to County of Stettler producers who could control pests through traps or firearms.

Beaumont stated he had no list like the one Nibourg mentioned but noted staff could try to compile one.

Nibourg observed that with more and more acreages in rural areas, it’s possible a gopher could get into some properties and the owners wouldn’t know how to handle it, which could result in the spreading of the pest to other properties.

“I don’t know how many acreage owners would even have a .22 (rifle) to plunk a few of these things, right?” said Nibourg, who added he thought he’d recently seen advertisements for such specialists.

Beaumont stated Flagstaff County is selling both pest control equipment and traps and suspected that’s what Nibourg saw. He noted staff will look into developing a list of pest control specialists that County of Stettler property owners could call to handle gopher issues.

Chair Grover asked what the County of Stettler’s liability risk would be for providing a list of trappers or shooters to residents.

Nibourg responded he didn’t see any reason why the County of Stettler would have any liability for providing such a list.

“We don’t endorse or do anything,” said Nibourg.

Coun. Justin Stevens stated he agreed with Grover a question of liability could exist, and used the example of weed spraying experts and the certification they must earn before being recommended.

Nibourg stated such a list could include a disclaimer from the County of Stettler.

Beaumont stated Coun. Stevens was correct, the act of poisoning pests requires certain certification.

Nibourg responded he understood where the concerns were coming from but maintained such a list of gopher control experts was simply a neighbourly thing to do.

“I get it, I totally get it,” said Nibourg. “(But) being a neighbour doesn’t give us liability, in my opinion,” he added.

Falling back to the point about pesticides available at the County of Stettler, Beaumont’s report went on to state, “We will have three products on hand for the 2023 season, we will have Rozol, Ground Force, and Ramik. These are all multi-feed baits as that is our only option now for Richardson Ground Squirrel (gopher) control.”
Councillors accepted Beaumont’s report as information.

Later in the meeting board members also approved several annual policies which Beaumont described as necessary for the control of certain pests, including vegetation, clubroot and wild boars.

The vote for approval of the clubroot policy was passed 4 to 1, Nibourg the lone dissenter.

Earlier in the discussion Nibourg asked staff what would happen if the ASB didn’t renew this policy. Beaumont responded he himself is still a pest officer under the Agriculture Pest Act and would be required to conduct inspections.

During discussion on the wild boar policy, Beaumont reminded councillors the County of Stettler pays a $75 bounty for every pair of wild boar ears brought to the office.

The provincial government reimburses the county for this bounty.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.