Saskatoon gopher derby may go into the hole
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:
SASKATOON, Saslatchewan–Started on April 1, the Ken Turcot
Memorial Gopher Derby was touted by Saskatoon Wildlife Federation
business manager Len Jabush as perhaps the biggest killing contest in
Jabush told Karen Morrison of The Western Producer that he
distributed 10,000 entry forms, expecting 2,000 contestants to pay
$20 each to have their “gopher” tails counted, and was “scrambling”
to print more. He did not say, “April fool!”
As the June 1 entry deadline approached, Jabush had 188
entries, wrote Darren Bernhadt of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Two
entrants, Kelly Stevens and Wes Popescul, had killed 3,700 of the
4,020 “gophers” whose tails had been submitted for counting.
Popescul admitted to spending as much as $800 on a special rifle,
ammunition, and gasoline to try to win some of the $20,000 in prize
money that Jabush said would be raised from the $20-per-person entry
fees, half of which went into the jackpot.
The “gophers” were actually Richardson’s ground squirrels and
blackfooted prairie dogs.
The National Wildlife Federation, a federation of state
hunting clubs founded in 1936, has raised funds since March 1988 in
the name of protecting blackfooted prairie dogs as a threatened
species. The Canadian Wildlife Federation, founded in 1962, is
officially independent but shares many programs and membership
services with NWF. The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation is a chapter
of the CWF, and the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation is an affiliate of
the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.
But neither NWF, CWF, nor the Saskatchewan Wildlife
Federation said much when asked for comment by Sinikka Crosland,
R.N., of the Canadian Health Action Professionals’ Committee for
Compassionate Living, Andrea Lococo of the Fund for Animals, and
Sandy Baumgartner of CWF admitted to Crosland, however,
that “The views expressed by many Canadians and CWF supporters about
the Saskatoon gopher derby raises issues that are not covered within
our existing policy.”
Despite the failure of the Gopher Derby to attract high
participation and kill tens of thousands of Richardson’s ground
squirrels and blackfooted prairie dogs, Alberta environment minister
Mike Cardinal reportedly told David Sands of the Edmonton Sun that he
would welcome an expansion of the killing contest into Alberta.
The furor just north of the border prompted Rachael Hanel of
The Free Press of Mankato to discover that many North Dakota
communities still pay bounties of $1.00 to $2.00 per “gopher” killed.
Blue Earth County paid out the most last year: $295 for dead
Richardson’s ground squirrels and blackfooted prairie dogs, plus
$1,495 for beavers trapped in county ditches.
“It is appalling to me that in this day and age this sort of
thing still goes on,” said Minnesota Humane Society executive
director Erin Jordahl.
Saskatchwan SPCA executive director Frances Wach, however,
reportedly told Western Producer reporter Morrison that her
organization “accepts pest control as a part of agricultural
practice, provided it is done humanely.” Wach did not respond to a
March 25 ANIMAL PEOPLE inquiry as to whether Morrison quoted her