What is the city going to do about gophers?
That’s kind of like asking what Manteca is going to do about the fog.
Nevertheless, a resident did make an inquiry about Manteca’s gopher eradication policy at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
It seems grading for the new Prime Shine Car Wash on Airport Way has sent gophers — and field mice — fleeing to the yards of nearby subdivision homes.
Give these people sometime and one of the most beautiful sights they’ll ever see is a gopher floating face down in a swimming pool.
If that sounds harsh, I can direct you to more than a few people around Manteca that feel that way.
Of all the rodents, you won’t find anyone with pet gophers — or moles for that matter.
Experts say a typical gopher can move a ton of soil a year to the surface. They actually have use in nature’s scheme of things by increasing soil quality.
One gopher can also feed like a dozen famished teens. But instead of eating you out of house and home they view your yard as a never ending buffet restaurant with plenty of roses, tree roots, bulbs, and vegetables to polish off.
Say what you want about flood irrigation, but it is probably the most effective mass control of gophers in Manteca and Ripon.
Gophers haven’t always been the No. 1 bane of Manteca-Ripon farmers and gardeners. There was a time when Bugs Bunny would have had a bounty of his head if he wandered here.
Rabbits back in the 1920s and 1930s were so numerous and damaging to crops that farmers in the Manteca district would host community rabbit hunts. Some historical accounts say at their peak the number of rabbits bagged by the mass hunt approached 10,000 in some years.
Killing gophers — as the folks living near the Prime Shine Car Wash are sure to find out — isn’t nearly as easy. Short of ripping out all vegetation and pouring concrete a foot thick in your yard, if you live in Manteca sooner or later a gopher is going to leave his calling card in the form of those irksome dirt mounds.
There is a reason why so many people in Manteca identify with Bill Murray in “Caddyshack.” Trying to kill gophers is one of the most frustrating endeavors you’ll ever undertake. If someone develops an app that could remotely kill gophers — or at the very least drive them into the nearest body of water — they would rule Manteca.
Gophers do well here because of the sandy loam that provides bountiful food with minimal amount of work for the rodents. Manteca is kind of like dining at Club Med if you’re a gopher.
I never saw a gopher until I moved to Manteca 25 years ago. Then again I don’t ever recall seeing roof rats either until one evening near twilight in 1991 when I saw them scurry along a phone wire across East Yosemite Avenue.
As for field mice, I’ll never forget opening the doors to a stand-alone metal garage on the edge of an almond orchard on West Ripon Road in the country to help with the retrieval of furnishings and personal items that had been in storage for years. When daylight struck the stacked furniture and boxes, at least a hundred or so pairs of beady eyes froze before the air was punctured with the sound of a mouse stampede as the rodents scurried for cover.
It is because of gophers and assorted rats and mice that are prevalent in Manteca that I have changed my attitude about feral cats and those that belong to neighbors but seem to think my front yard is their home right down to bedroom and bathroom.
Between my two Dalmatians and my decision to deploy chicken wire when planting anything that a gopher might find remotely edible, both gophers and mice rarely make an appearance any more in my back yard unless it is in the form of a carcass.
That wasn’t the case for my front yard where the toll on my roses and other plants was looking as if General Sherman’s army was munching its way through.
But then one of the cats decided my yard was their yard. It looks healthy and acts domestic so I assume it belongs to someone. Still for the longest time it irked me. But then something beautiful happened — I found it one day clawing one of the fattest gophers I had ever seen. She had killed the gopher that apparently had managed to take out nine roses and three other plants despite my having used chicken wire when I planted years prior.
The cat prefers sleeping in my ferns, on my kitchen step, or while sunning itself on top of my Ford Escape. Even so, there is now a pet crate complete with blanket on my front porch. I also have taken to buying cat food for her.
I no longer mind the dirty paw prints on my hood and windshield. Somehow she manages to do her business now without swatting bark all over the place.
Since the cat moved into my front yard the tell-tale signs of gophers have disappeared whether it is those annoying dirt mounds or plants either under stress or dying.
So to answer the homeowner’s question, perhaps the city can deploy a couple dozen feral cats in her neighborhood.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.