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Pocket Gophers and the ESA

June 5,  2014

 Pocket Gophers & the ESA 
Recently the US Fish and Wildlife Service has listed as threatened the Mazama pocket gopher.  This little guy spends most of his time underground, burrowing tunnels looking for food, which is mostly roots and other vegetation.  They will push up dirt to the surface, and it will remind you of mole hills. The pocket gopher is important to the ecology of the South Puget Sound prairies.  They stir and mix the soil, move seeds about, and help make the prairies what they are.  Not surprisingly, they are vilified by some as a worthless rodent.  In fact, they were at one time trapped and poisoned.  Now these pocket gophers have the protection under the Endangered Species Act.  Their prairie habitat has been altered so much that it is estimated only about 9% of the original prairies remain as habitat.During the ESA listing process, there is a designation of “critical habitat” for the pocket gopher.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service has seen our farm, and how we mange our pastures and grazing.  Due to our management, the Service has not designated us as critical habitat because our management goes beyond what they would expect to be done.

Our family has been grazing cattle on these same prairies for over 150 years, and we seem to be getting along with the pocket gopher just fine.  We believe that pocket gophers, and cattle grazing are compatible, in fact, in all the years our family has been here, we can honestly say that we have never once seen a pocket gopher kill one of our cows.

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