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Calgary homeowners frustrated with ‘overwhelming’ gopher invasion: ‘It’s an infestation’

Their squeaks fill the air like a rodent symphony.

The green space near Saddlebrook Way in northeast Calgary is home to an endless parade of gophers popping from the soil.

“It’s an infestation. It’s overwhelming,” said Annabell Mailath on Saturday.

Her home backs onto the green space in Saddleridge that’s packed with Richardson’s ground squirrels. The trouble is the gophers are expanding their territory into nearby homes.

“It’s an invasion. It’s frustrating. We would like to enjoy our backyard,” Mailath said.

Mailath is concerned that recent construction at the green space is causing the migration of gophers into her backyard but pest control companies say the issue is more likely related to last year’s young ones being pushed out of their homes.

“It’s common for people to believe that there is construction going on and therefore they have a pest problem. But pests are constantly trying to expand their territory,” said Bill Martin, owner of Martin’s Pest Control.

Mailath hasn’t called a pest control company yet because she’s worried any money she spends will be in vain.

“With a few gophers, it’s something we can manage, but even if we were to deal with the 30 in my backyard, there’s another 1,000 out there.

“It’s too much for a first-time homeowner to deal with on their own,” Mailath said.

Richardson ground squirrels in a Calgary backyard in Saddle Ridge on June 15, 2019.

It’s a tricky situation that Martin says ideally needs the cooperation of the owner of the green space and neighbours to collectively deal with.

“If you can get the city involved or if you can get the people who own the green space involved, it’s always good to do. The more people to get involved, the better because it’s really a group effort. Very often we will have a case where the whole street gets on board and we will do it all at the same time and they will get much better results,” Martin said.

 Martin uses a rodenticide specifically for gophers, injected deep into burrows to kill them. He advises not to be like a few of his frustrated customers who either flooded their basements or blew up property in futile attempts at critter control.

“I had a person three years ago who had a detached garage at his house so he filled the cavity with propane and lit it and it actually lifted his garage off the foundation a couple of inches. But I was there because he still had a gopher problem,” Martin said.

Plugging the holes isn’t working for Mailath. She says the persistent pests have managed to circumvent the obstacles she’s placed along her fence.

“You don’t expect these little creatures to come through gravel and push boards and come through grass. Even if it’s a tiny hole, they push their little butts through,” Mailath said.

She is hoping to talk to the developer that owns the green space to see if there is something they can work out. She doesn’t want to use poison in her yard because of her pets.

If poisoning is the preferred control method, Martin suggests using an professional who has an exterior rodent control licence.

“Remember, if you are going to use things that are not designed for their purpose, you could end up injuring something else that it’s not designed for,” Martin said.

He says the best bet with gopher control is to call the experts in late March or early April before the situation gets out of hand.

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