Farmers throughout the MD of Bonnyville will have some stricter rules to follow when purchasing Strychnine from the municipality this season.
After passing a new policy on the use of the gopher poison during their regular meeting on Wednesday, April 10, producers will now have a tighter deadline to pick up their product and use it, and on the amount they can purchase.
“We actually put the deadline for use to May 31. What happens after that is there’s a lot more for the gophers to eat… so they’re not as apt to eat the poison. There’s less of a chance for other animals to eat that poison (by restricting it),” noted director of ag and waste services for the MD Matt Janz.
Strychnine is a white, odourless, bitter crystalline powder that is used by farmers throughout the country to rid themselves of gophers.
Although they haven’t had issues previously with farmers purchasing too much, the municipality has also decided to cap the number of cases that can be purchased at two.
“In the past, we’ve never really had a problem with someone overusing the product or buying too much, but we wanted to make sure it doesn’t become a problem either,” detailed Janz.
However, it’s not only the MD’s regulations farmers have to consider.
The province has also put restrictions in place in order to prevent unnecessary animal deaths.
“Strychnine is a preferred method, but what comes with that is the high toxicity of Strychnine. If it’s not used properly, it can kill other animals, that’s why there are a lot of regulations for the poison,” explained Janz. “It can only be used down hole, and when you put the poison down the hole, you have to cover it so no other animals can get at it. Also, any tools or even the bottles of the poison themselves have to be locked in a controlled area. Kids can’t use the product; it has to be an adult. There are a lot of control features that people have to adhere too.”
He said when producers come to purchase the poison from the MD’s public works shop, the rules are mapped out clearly.“We’ve been selling Strychnine for a number of years, but we felt with the concern that some people have with it, we needed tougher regulations,” said Janz about creating a municipal policy.
Gophers, which are also known as Richardson Ground Squirrels, aren’t a major problem in the area, but they are considered a pest.
Strychnine is the “preferred method,” because it’s a one-time dose.”Farmers don’t have to re-treat an area and go back multiple times in order to poison the gophers with some of the other (options) where you have to have three or four doses in order for the animals to die,” Janz noted.
There are other options for those who choose to avoid Strychnine.
Janz detailed, “A lot of people don’t like using poison, and there are other methods. Either they want to shoot… (or) drown gophers, these methods aren’t as effective, they’re a little bit more labour intensive. Even a family of badgers moving in would probably take out the gopher problem, but then you’re left with bigger holes to fill.”
Strychnine is re-registered in Canada every five years, and undergoes testing under the Pest Management Regulatory Association.
The product is up for renewal at the end of this year, and Janz said there are still no signs on whether or not it will pass the federal regulation.
“We still haven’t heard back on the re-registration of Strychnine. As it sits right now, it doesn’t look like it will be re-registered after 2019. We still have this year to use the product, but we haven’t heard if it’s going to get renewed or if it might just be gone by the end of this year.”