Controlling pocket gophers with burrow builders

WYOBRASKA – One of the biggest issues facing our region’s producers is pocket gophers. While there are many different techniques for dealing with gophers, one of the lesser-known techniques is using a burrow builder.

According to a document, NebGuide 2035, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, written by Scott E. Hygnstrom, Stephen M Vantassel, and Bruce E. Anderson, “Burrow builders, also known as gopher machines and gopher getters, are tractor-drawn implements that create tunnels through the soil and drop a measured amount of toxic grain bait into tunnels. The tunnels created intercept or come near the burrows of pocket gophers. Pocket gophers, through their natural digging activities, intercept and enter the tunnels, and eat the toxic bait”.

Burrow builders are mostly used in areas like fields, golf courses, and parks. They can also be used to treat rough terrain by using a free-floating hitch. “Burrow builders are used most successfully when the following conditions exist: 1) large fields that have extensive pocket gopher populations at high densities; 2) the effects of control and evaluation of control can be delayed for several days; and 3) hand baiting and trapping have been considered and deemed impractical” according to NebGuide 2035.

A burrow builder consists of a rolling coulter blade, a knife or shank opener and torpedo tube, a packer or press wheel, a seed box or bait hopper, and a metering unit that controls the rate of bait flow from the box. The size of each part may vary dependent on soil type.

The coulter blade will cut roots and trash before the shank and torpedo tube. It should be set four to six inches ahead. The space between the blade and the shank will need to be cleaned as trash can build up in that space.

The torpedo tube should be operated at the same depth as the burrows in the area being treated. Digging through a few holes to find the main tunnel should result in the correct depth. The press wheel will close the hole made by the torpedo tube. The pressure should be adjusted for proper closure. 

While using a burrow builder, is always important to take safety in to consideration. Toxic baits are hazardous materials and will cause illness if not used correctly. Before performing any work on the burrow builder, always disconnect the power. Contacting your local utility companies is a must before using a burrow builder. 

For more information on burrow builders and pocket gophers, contact your local extension office.

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