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Cat-footed thieves clean out gopher-feet savings
 
It is a story reminiscent of the exploits of Larry’s, Daryl’s and Daryl’s company, Anything For A Buck, in the TV show “Newhart” – the outdoor sporting world is ablaze with the report of the theft of 1,400 pairs of frozen gopher feet.

Yes, I said frozen gopher feet, and … yes, someone stole them.
Here’s how the story unravels: Michael Junge works for a farmer in Fillmore County, Minn. Part of his duties is to help rid his employer’s farmland of a huge population of gophers. Rumor has it Junge would catch upwards of 15 gophers a night. That’s a lot of gophers, and it’s a lot of gopher feet.

Now, before everyone gets their “sad eyes” on about the demise of cute little fuzzy gophers, please don’t start sending a bunch of hate email. The critters are not the cute little animals you see scurrying along county roads or cheering in oversize costumes for the University of Minnesota’s football team.

The cute ones are striped gophers, or as some call them in the far North, “ground squirrels.” The gophers taken for bounty payments are the destructive, nasty little pocket gophers looking like blind mole rats on steroids.

Pocket gophers are bad actors and can dig more than 900 feet of tunnels producing 300 mounds of dirt every summer. In a year, an average pocket gopher can pile up about four tons of dirt. In doing so, they can devastate an entire field of alfalfa faster than you can say “frozen gopher feet.”

Apparently, as part of Junge’s employee compensation and bonus package, he gets to keep the gopher feet.

Don’t laugh. In a lot of Minnesota counties, pocket gopher feet are big business for some locals, as county agents pay a $3 bounty for each pair. Immediately upon hearing the news and regulations, I thought how an unscrupulous gopher trapper could catch one gopher and turn in two pairs of feet, but that is not the case. In fact, the bounty is paid only for the heavily clawed and distinctively different front feet.

Gopher trapping surely was the silver lining in Junge’s employment. Averaging 15 gophers a night ciphers out to $45 a pop – not a bad return on setting a few gopher traps. Unfortunately, someone came in and pinched Junge’s entire gopher feet stash.

I can just imagine the devastation and loss he felt when lifting the lid of the freezer to find someone had slipped in under the cover of darkness and absconded with a life savings of 1,400 pair of gopher feet. Any way you look at it, it is a hard hit when someone grabs your poke of feet, worth $4,200.

Junge was not going to take the gopher poke heist lying down. Whoever walked off with the 1,400 pair of feet was going to pay, so he called the police. Immediately, the investigating officers began to inquire of the surrounding township and county agents of any suspected large sums of gopher feet recently turned in for bounty.
Sure enough, neighboring Harmony Township said they had just received a large number of frozen gopher feet.

Officers theorize Tina Garrison and her son, Junior Dillion, snatched the entire stash of feet in one fell swoop. It seems Dillion had been to Junge’s house in the past and learned of the stash in the garage freezer. Dillion and his mother have pled not guilty – but are incapable of explaining where they happened across 1,400 pairs of frozen gopher feet.

I did a little research on the pocket gopher, and found some interesting statistics I hope Minnesota township trustees are aware of when paying the “two-foot” bounty. Pocket gophers live for an estimated 12 years, and have a 19-day gestation period. Upon reaching the age of one year, they begin to raise a minimum of five litters each year consisting of 1-13 babies.

Man! That is a lot of gophers.

Based on this information, I have concluded a retiree could buy a 40-acre alfalfa farm in Minnesota in a gopher bounty-paying township, and by practicing pocket gopher herd management and harvest, could actually pay off the farm and enjoy their retirement years by running 20-30 gopher traps each morning.

After removing the much-sought front legs for bounty, I can’t help but wonder what happens to the remaining gopher carcasses. Maybe I need to get in touch with Minnesota’s own “Bizarre Foods” television star Andrew Zimmern, to see if he has any gourmet pocket gopher recipes.

Blue Grass Lake boat ramp replacement

Construction will begin soon on a new boat ramp to improve hunting and fishing access to Blue Grass Lake at Blue Grass Fish & Wildlife Area near Evansville. The new concrete ramp will replace the existing gravel ramp at the lake’s north end.

Work will also include rehabbing the parking area to increase capacity. Construction will begin on or around July 8 and last approximately two weeks. During construction the site will be closed.

Hummingbird banding at Dunes State Park

The Indiana Dunes State Park Interpretive Services and Friends of Indiana Dunes will be hosting a special day of bird banding on Aug. 10 at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center. Licensed hummingbird bander Allen Chartier will be demonstrating the science and research of hummingbird banding for the public, as well as discussing tips for hummer feeding, gardening and his own research.

The morning program will begin at 9 a.m. CDT. Allen will set up traps at the Nature Center feeders to catch and band Indiana Dunes hummers for visitors to see. At 1:30 p.m., he will make a formal presentation detailing his research with ruby-throated hummingbirds, and tips folks can use in attracting them. The program will take place in the Nature Center auditorium. “For visitors who have never seen a hummingbird in the hand and up close, it’s a magical experience,” said Park Interpreter Brad Bumgardner.

Participation is free, after paying the standard gate fee of $5 for Indiana vehicles and $10 for out-of-state vehicles. For more information, call the nature center at 219-926-1390. Indiana Dunes State Park is located at 1600 North 25 E. Chesterton, IN 46304.
7/17/2013