Gophers: Cute Cuddly Critters, or Unwanted Pests?


Animals – Gophers – Images by Sean Phillips

I’ve been getting lots of contacts lately about my images of gophers. I think this is partly because it is spring on the prairies and these cute little critters are starting to appear again after a long winter underground. But I think it is even more so because they have been making the news a lot lately in Canada due to their recent designation as Pests in the Province of Saskatchewan. Inclusion in the province‚Äôs Pest Control Act means that it is now legal to exterminate these animals along with other pests such as Rats and Grasshoppers.

Although commonly known as gophers, these animals are officially called Richardson’s Ground Squirrels. They are often confused with Prairie Dogs, however that is an entirely different species. No matter what they are called they are very fun to watch and extremely photogenic. I have literally made thousands of images of these funny little critters and I’m always happy to make a few more!

The designation of gophers as pests makes me a little bit sad, because I really do enjoy watching them, but the simple truth is that the prairies are infested with these animals. In the areas where I roam I can scan the ground and see the typical grass and soil conditions in which they live and there are signs of their burrows everywhere. They are especially problematic for farmers because their burrows tend to collapse under the weight of the farm equipment, which can lead to significant damage and expensive repairs, and in areas where the population is particularly dense they can actually ravage the crops simply by eating. Unfortunately this is a man-made problem because our influence has allowed them to thrive on the prairie farmland in several ways: we grow lots of food, such as canola, that they love to eat; we till the ground which makes it easy for them to dig and survive; and we have significantly reduced the populations of their natural predators such as coyotes and foxes.

So does this make them a pest? I guess it does in the eyes of many. But I personally think that they are awfully cute and cuddly too, and I love to share my images of them!

Prairie Glow

Glowing farm field at sunrise

I love the way the morning light glows in the prairie fields. These stalks of grain seemed to be reaching for the sun as it rose and the sparkling dew drops added to the mood. The sun rises so early these days and I haven’t been able to get out to enjoy it as much as I do at other times of the year, so this was a pretty special morning for me. Never forget to look around you and appreciate what you have!

Prairie Fence at Sunrise

Prairie Fence at Sunrise

I drive the prairie roads almost every day and I’m always searching for something new and interesting to make images of. Although I find the prairies extremely beautiful, I have to admit that sometimes it all starts to look the same. Sometimes I really have to look really hard to find something different than all the images I’ve made before. Sometimes that can be extremely difficult. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

But there are other times when the picture just jumps out of the scene and there’s no question about what the final image is going to look like. When I saw the deep golden glow of the sunrise light up the farmland in front of me, I knew that if I just turned toward the sun I would see something magical. And it was.

Fencepost Silhouette