I just read an interesting column on gophers that ran in the Nov. 12 edition of the L.A. Times’ Home section. In it, columnist Emily Green discusses a lecture on gophers given by plant ecologist Paula Schiffman who says the destructive little critters actually have some positive attributes.

Now anyone who has had to deal with gophers in their garden will have a hard time appreciating, let alone recognizing, anything positive about them.

I live on five acres in southwestern Spokane County and have seen my share of gopher damage over the years. They’ve gobbled up prized tulip bulbs, Ponderosa pine seedlings and all of the roots off many young fruit trees… just to name a few trials I’ve had to endure while sharing property with them.

Schiffman is concerned that one of the most common methods gopher-plagued homeowners use to kill them is poison. That same poison has been found in bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes and owls. (I would also be concerned about how the poisons affect hawks and dogs that eat the poisoned carcasses.)

Emily Green states that “Trapping has been one reaction (to the problem of gophers by homeowners), but once a gopher was in a cage, who among us would know what to do with a disgruntled rodent?”

For years, I have successfully used Macabee gopher traps. They are placed inside a burrow and spring like a mouse trap on the unsuspecting gopher. These traps pinch them around the middle and, nine times out of 10, kill them. Yes, you have to put on a pair of gloves to remove the corpus delecti but if you’re serious about gardening, it’s just something you have to deal with. You can find the traps at large garden centers like Northwest Seed & Pet.

Back to Green’s column: Schiffman points out that gophers are great at tilling the soil in the garden as a result of their digging and that they are territorial so there really aren’t as many out in the yard as one might fear.

To read Emily Green’s column, go to Gophers? Go for better engineering. It’s really quite interesting.