Farmers may have one less powerful weapon at their disposal to limit the gopher population.
Gophers can wreak havoc by damaging crops or hurting livestock, so farmers have used strychnine, a powerful poison that clears them almost instantly. The problem is the secondary effects of poisoning, like if a raven eats the dead gopher or if predators go into the holes.
That’s why the Pest Management Regulatory Agency is discussing whether to ban strychnine.
If banned, producers will likely use firearms to control gophers, or less toxic poisons that would require a few feedings a year. Basically, more work and more time.
In response, the Municipal District of Bonnyville sent a letter of support to Alberta Agriculture to protest the review of strychnine.
However, Matt Janz, director of agriculture and waste for the M.D. says council is discussing ways to lessen its harm.
“Council did say they were comfortable with putting more regulations on it by training the farmers, by making it mandatory training and also tightening up the timelines to use the product. Maybe a 4-6 week period on the first part of the spring.”
There are some regulations in place on strychnine already. The only way local producers can get strychnine is from the M.D, and they have to remove the dead gophers afterwards to help stop secondary poisoning.
But that doesn’t stop the problems.
The issue is when strychnine is used later in the season, said Warren Garnier an M.D. resident during council’s last meeting Wednesday.
Strychnine is killing too many of the weasels and coyotes that need to be able to do their job and kill pests like gophers, he said.
He suggested limiting strychnine use to only after the snow melts to stop its domino effects.
Meanwhile, Alberta Agriculture and Saskatchewan are protesting the federal review, which asked for public feedback until Sept. 27.
“I’ve seen numerous letters in the last month from other municipalities for re-registration of strychnine. I think everybody feels the same if it’s used properly in the right manner,“ said Janz.
It is unknown when the review of strychnine will be complete.
Farmers will still be able to purchase strychnine from the M.D. next year as the ban would not start until 2020.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency reviews each herbicides or pesticide every five years.
Strychnine was prohibited in the early 2000s before it was re-registered under greater guidelines and made less concentrated.