Agopher-plagued RM in southwestern Manitoba has set its sights on a creative strategy to thin out the crop-and pasture-destroying varmints and boost local tourism at the same time.
The Boissevain/Mor ton Gopher Derby hopes to lure 50-75 hunters to the area’s fields and pastures on May 28 for a one-day event modelled after the annual derby in Cadillac, Sask., with camping, an afternoon barbecue, and a draw for prizes.
An entry fee will be charged to defray some of the costs, and sponsors are also being sought for the event, which is hoped will become a regular draw to the area.
Dale Banman, economic development officer for the Turtle Mountain Community Development Corp., said that he hopes to line up about 16 parcels of land of at least 40 acres in size where the burrowing rodents are particularly thick.
“It’s not going to be a contest,” said Banman. “We’re not going to ask for tails or anything.”
Farmers will be encouraged to join in the shooting derby, or volunteer as guides for the hunters, who will be organized in small groups of around four and spread out in different areas to ensure a safe event.
Already, a group of about 16 hunters from Winnipeg who go each year to Cadillac’s annual event have expressed interest in attending.
To prevent some overenthusiastic shooter from pulling out a .50 BMG, hunters will be restricted to .22 rimfire calibres or smaller, such as the .17 HMR that has recently grown in popularity with varmint hunters.
RM of Morton Reeve Bob McCallum, who is helping to organize the event, said that gopher populations in many parts of southwestern Manitoba have soared in recent years after strychnine- based poisons were outlawed.
“They’re thick enough that they’re doing a lot of damage,” said McCallum, adding that last year on his farm, the varmints in one particularly bad patch destroyed about 14 acres of crop.
“The idea is to have a bit of fun for the guys that like to go out and do a bit of target practice out in the fresh air,” he said. “They can go out with friends and family and help out the farmers.”
In the interest of safety, McCallum added that a pre-hunt briefing will be arranged to set out hunting protocols and to remind participants of the need to be careful and respect property. daniel. [email protected]