Public Statement: Regarding Columbian Ground Squirrels, aka ‘gophers’, at the Crawford Bay Community Park.

After more than a decade of attempts to control the ever-increasing gopher population in our park, the Crawford Bay & District Hall & Park Association chose to take a new approach this spring. Previous efforts included trapping, asphyxia, drowning, and shooting which we could not legally do because of Crawford Bay’s official, designated ‘No Shooting’ area.

Over the past few years there have been more and more issues arising from the gophers’ expanding population. There are now a dangerously large number of holes and that has become a liability concern for the Park. These holes can cause twisted ankles, and possibly worse, to humans, domestic animals, and wild animals. Gopher holes also pose a potential threat to the Park board’s ability to maintain liability insurance for public events held at our park.

On occasion the potential danger has also precluded new activities, such as the formation of a women’s softball team, from being successful.

The gophers now have extensive tunnels UNDER the pavilion, kitchen, Community Corner, outhouse and the tennis courts, where there are 31 gopher tunnels alone! If this situation is not remedied the gophers will continue to cause massive damage to the structural integrity of this public space and this could affect local taxpayers.

To add to our challenge, the gopher colony continues to expand their territory. Now they are causing damage to the park’s neighbours including: Kokanee Chalets, the Medical Clinic, the Credit Union, Sunny Woods Garden Centre, Crawford Creek RV Park as well as several adjoining private properties.

Our goal was not to eradicate the gopher population but to reduce it to a level where other solutions such as live trapping, might be practical and effective. We chose to work with Cranbrook Pest Control, who are government-certified, professionally trained, insured and bonded. We asked many questions of them about our concerns with kids, pets, and our local wildlife prior to hiring them. We were informed that they would use Rozol RTU, putting it deep below ground into the holes. We were also told this would not affect preditors and that the ground squirrels would die underground.

We were NOT told that the pale green, rice-sized grains of poison would be found above ground. After the application of Rozol RTU on Monday, April 27th, some community members shared information that we had brought in Cranbrook Pest Control to help us. As soon as we heard their concerns we immediately put up warning signs around the park and cancelled the planned second visit from Cranbrook Pest Control.

On Friday May 3rd, we were contacted by our local area Conservation Officer, C. Haslehurst. The discussion was very informative and the board was assured that what we did to control the gopher population WAS legal. He also also confirmed that there are only two legal ways to reduce the population – poison administered by a licensed and provincially registered company or trapping by hiring a licensed trapper.

Our initiative did not work out the way we expected. Unfortunately, likely due to the extraordinary number of gophers in our park, a small number of gophers made their way out of the tunnels before dying. As soon as we became aware of this board members and community volunteers began walking around the park numerous times each day to check for dead gophers above ground. These patrols will be on-going for some time.

We would like to thank those generous community members and volunteers for taking the time and initiative to help us over the past week or so and who have communicated their concerns and ideas. We are all in this together and your caring is so appreciated.

We are actively investigating trapping options and others suggestions by local residents. However the the optimum time for doing this, which is before the females have their young, will soon have passed and it might be that we can’t initiate any other controls until the spring of 2020.

Of course anything that we do in the park will ONLY be effective if our neighbours – landowners adjoining the park – choose to work with us and we have already begun contacting them about this.

At present the Crawford Bay & District Hall & Park Association has only seven directors. We have responsibility to manage the eight-acre park, our community hall and the eight acres surrounding it, as well as the Kootenay Bay Boat Launch. This is too much for so few volunteers to take on. The best way for community members to have input into the management of these facilities is to become involved by participating in park work days, volunteering to actively help with park upkeep, boat launch maintenance and hall renovations as well as attending Annual General Meetings and standing for election to the board. We welcome new volunteer board members at any time of the year.

Board of Directors – Crawford Bay & District Hall & Park Association Box 71, Crawford Bay, BC, V0B 1E0

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