City Council approves contract to kill gophers

September 28, 2018

Santa Fe city councilors on Wednesday approved a new contract with a company that will trap and kill potentially thousands of gophers in city parks.

At least one councilor was stridently opposed, denouncing the prospective rodent massacre and the means of fatally trapping the gophers in their underground burrows.

“I consider trapping to be extremely cruel,” Councilor Signe Lindell said. “I couldn’t possibly put my name on a contract that has to do with trapping.”

Lindell has a reputation as an advocate for animal welfare. Last year, she spearheaded a successful effort to ban circuses featuring wild animals within city limits.

Councilors, however, were not swayed by Lindell’s plea to investigate whether the city could move gophers rather than kill them, much the same way the city deals with prairie dogs, which are explicitly protected by city ordinance. Gophers enjoy no such protection.

Councilors and Mayor Alan Webber voted 7-2 to approve the contract with Albuquerque-based Gopher Grabbers LLC, which will pay $28 per gopher, up to $75,000 annually, for as many as four years. Councilor Renee Villarreal joined Lindell in voting against the contract.

Richard Thompson, director of the city Parks Division, told councilors the city has received reports of injuries suffered at parks where gopher burrows have turned grassy turf into uneven terrain.

“It really comes down to a difficult choice between protecting children and adults playing on these fields or allowing the rodents to reside in peace,” Thompson said. “Life is a series of tough choices. We’ve chosen to protect the children who play in the parks from those hidden dangers of underground burrows.”

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