Rakes, grass, gophers, and me.

I am leaving the tools I use to discourage gophers in the storage container.  They're just inside the door, on the right, underneath the shelf.

I'll continue to use them, but what I would really like is for everyone to use them.

This is maintenance that needs to be done. Ideally every day.  It's not a "one or two people come out early one weekend for a couple of hours" project, it's an "Everyone takes ten minutes every time they come out" sort of project.

We have enough regular pilots that if it became a habit for everyone to take five or ten minutes and rake out completely a couple of gopher mounds, every day they flew, the LZ would be pretty flat.

The watering changes have helped, but I think staying after the gophers and their grass-smothering mounds has had a positive effect.  The area by the PG cone that was almost entirely gopher dirt now has grass in it.  It's still not flat, because I haven't had time to add sand and rake it flat.

If we're going to have nicer grass, it's going to take a sustained effort from the whole club.  It's not a high level of effort, but it needs to be sustained, like a habit or tradition. 

 

 

In summer/fall 1993 after being without an LZ for some 2 years and we got our own LZ for the first time there was a tremendous sense of ownership. We took for granted that the enthusiasm... to pick rocks, maneuver wheelbarrows and see smiling faces on everyone taking enjoyment while improving their very own LZ... would last 100 years.

Gradually this pride and sense of ownership has waned. Now it seems, what we take for granted is the LZ itself. We take for granted that someone will keep an eye on the water system or that the grass surface will be raked and smoothed. And we take for granted that a few members will step up and fill the officer positions of the CSS each year. Sadly that sense of ownership is a distant echo of what once was. Maybe it's a reflection on the general trend of people not wanting to own things like homes but rather rent. Well even if one does prefer to rent rather than own, make no mistake, regarding the LZ, we do own it. Perhaps not in the strict sense of name on a land title, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California Department of Water Resources together have made the decision to put the the pilots permanently in charge of their own landing place. 

Next time you arrive at the LZ and park your vehicle,... get out, take a deep breath and look around at the wonderful place YOU OWN. Maybe we should take a moment and be thankful for what we have.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.
 

Has the club looked into the possibility of trapping these things?

 

Traps work very well. You dig a hole about 12 to 18 inches deep on a main run, put a trap in each of the segments of the main run, cover it with plywood, and wait a day or two.

That will get the single gopher that's in that run about 90% of the time.

We have some traps. If someone wants to dig the holes to use them, I'm sure I could get some plywood offcuts to cover the holes.  We also have some large paraffined gopher baits that could be left in the run as a treat for the next few gophers to invade that run. Let me know.

I haven't done that at the LZ because: 

A. My dad showed me how to do it when I was a kid, after which it became my job when we had gophers.

B. It's a PITA to dig a hole in rocky soil.

C. I'm lazy.

Pocket gophers are endemic to Southern California. All of the area around the LZ has them.  Magically remove every gopher in the LZ, and more will move in, probably in the same run that was just vacated.

So it's not a question of getting rid of them entirely.  We can't.  It's just maintenance that needs to be done.

My plan is basically to try to keep the numbers actually in the LZ down, minimize the damage they do to the surface and the grass by raking out the mounds into low areas flat enough that the grass pokes up through it, and fill in the ankle breakers with sand that the grass can grow up through quickly.

If people make it a point of honor to do a little bit to their LZ every time they come outthen the surface will probably improve.  If people leave it for someone else to do, things will probably stay about the same, or get worse. 

 

 

 

 

 

The gophers just need to be preyed upon.

By cats! Go to the pound and get some kitties. Catch some gophers and give 'em to the kitties so that the kittens learn just how good a meal can be, plus also they get to play with the gophers so it's two treats in one!

Make a sand box just east of the training hill Lz. Instead of dealing with the gophers, the volunteers can periodically scoop the sand box. It ain't such a bad job, I've been cleaning litter boxes all my life, it's worth it to sit by the fire on a cold winters' day, with a good book and a kitty purring on your lap.

  I know that some aren't cat people, but even those folks will like kitties more than gophers. And cats are cheap. Wish you guys could spend some time with Yoda, my tan tabby. He's the most affectionate being I've ever met.

  Well, just thought that I'd try to make a suggestion. The gopher thing has been going on for a long time, and the simplest solutions are often the best.

Sadly, moving cats from the pound to the LZ will likely not result in a decrease in the gopher population.  Gophers spend about 95% of their lives inside their burrow with the holes plugged as a defense against predators. I'm sure cats would get them occasionally. I'm pretty sure intentionally starting a colony of feral cats would be illegal.

However, I would expect a well fed coyote population.  Coyotes also try to predate on gophers from time to time.  I don't know what their success rate in getting dinner is, but their success rate in leaving an ankle breaker by digging down the gopher run is pretty high.

As for getting volunteers to scoop a giant litter box: ha.  It's not worth another ha.  Remember, I go around looking for gopher sign all the time.  I find lots of dog-sized turds on the grass. Might be coyotes, I guess.

 

 

 

 

There is, however, some evidence that a nesting pair of barn owls will eat almost a gopher a day in the spring.

They hunt over a wide area, though, so there's no guarantee they'd eat the LZ gophers.  But I could get behind putting up barn owl boxes.