Monday, April 27, 2015


I work as a groundskeeper and deal with a variety of animals in a variety of different ways. One thing that always sat on my conscious was gophers (insert Caddyshack joke here). I, personally, have no problem with gophers. However outlined in my job description I am to "remove" gophers from any landscaped areas. So we poison them. We put little food pellets laced with coagulants (they thicken your blood) in their gopher holes. The poison kills them if they eat it for more than 3 days in a row. My guess is that it is slow and extremely painful, but I don't know. Up until the early 2000s, my job used a poison that would kill them much faster. One side effect of THAT poison was the the gophers would go crazy, run up out of their burrows and die out in the open. Hawks, eagles, and falcons would then eat the poisoned gopher and then die themselves. While I value the life of a hawk over the life of a gopher on an ecology scale, what gets me is this...That I make these little critters suffer greatly for good of another species. Is it that hawks are more ecologically important than gophers? They are important for pest control especially here in Santa Cruz. They also have a visual aesthetic that people (or at least me) associate with competency, fierceness and bravery. So is it another example of anthropomorphism? Sacrifice-the-lowly-gopher-digger-of-holes-for-the-noble-king-of-the-sky kinda thing?

One more thing. Part of my morning routine is checking the dumpsters to see if there are any raccoons trapped inside. Many would consider the raccoon as much of a pest as a my experience they are just as destructive to the garden as the gophers are...BUT NO ONE ASKS ME TO POISON THEM. It's inconsistent and it bothers me.


No judgments please I know I'm a gopher killer, no need to rub it in.

- Alex Verdoia


  1. That sounds awful! Maybe you could present your thoughts to your company on how you feel things should be handled with the infestation of gophers in the garden area. All animals should be treated fairly and by having the gophers be treated more unfairly than raccoons are is absurd.

  2. Regarding your idea of ecological importance of certain animals, I was thinking about whether or not it is beneficial to get rid of the gophers for the good of other animals. Say the gophers weren't poisoned but still made holes under the grass, would the animals who usually occupy the grass be at a disadvantage in their daily life? For example, we often see birds pecking around for insects or seeds in the grass, but if the grass was ruined by the gophers, the birds could still do their eating elsewhere. So, I guess it would be possible to not poison the gophers but rather let them be. The discrepancy between how the gophers and raccoons are treated is a shame, but it all goes with what we discussed at the beginning of the quarter in this course with associating a certain animal with a certain behavior. Although I am against any poisoning or hierarchy of ecological importance of animals, I understand your point of view.

  3. This sounds certainly unpleasant. I think, relating this back to the Descartes reading this week, he says animals are more like machines than logical thinkers. By putting the hawk on a higher pedestal than the gopher is useless because their own fate lies in the hands of the ultimate "human being." We make the choice of which "machine" is more useful than the other. But by killing them both off, we are back to the notion of animals being scrap material. You say either way the hawk dies right? This is an ending to a sad story.

  4. no the new poison doesn't kill the hawks, thats why we use it.