Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2017

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Answers: Clark County:

Combating gophers and pigeons a walk in park


Leila Navidi

Michael Yakubinis, a program assistant in the Real Property Management Department of Clark County, puts away the Rodenator after blowing up a gopher hole Monday in Sunset Park.

Click to enlarge photo

A man sits by the lake Tuesday in Sunset Park.

Monday will be one of the busiest days of the year for parks in the Las Vegas Valley. It’s still cool enough to be outdoors during the day, plus it’s a holiday.

Parks? People still go to parks, what with gophers digging holes and pigeons leaving their droppings everywhere?

Yes, people always go to parks. As for the aforementioned creatures, Clark County park maintenance gurus are using modern techniques that employ explosives and drugs to keep the park pests under control. In fact, the pigeon-control scheme seems to be bearing fruit.

You’re talking about that pigeon feed that renders the pigeons sterile — birth control for pigeons — as long as they’re eating it?

Yes. Kevin Parker, Clark County Parks Maintenance Division assistant manager, said anecdotal evidence indicates pigeon populations are declining.

What kind of fruit is the pigeon control program starting to bear?

Poop. As in, less of it. Parker said the pigeon program has been going full time about eight months. Using special feeders, it appears pigeons, but not other birds, are the only ones getting into the treated feed being distributed at three parks — Paradise, 4775 McLeod Drive south of Sunset Park and Warm Springs Road; Robert Price, 2050 Bonnie Lane, near Nellis Air Force Base; and Walnut, 3075 N. Walnut Road off East Cheyenne Avenue.

After using corn to train pigeons to use the specially designed feeders, parks workers added the birth control to the feed. Feed costs are about $1,600 every three months. Parker said company representatives said the drug is guaranteed to reduce pigeon populations 53 percent in year one, then 86 percent after 28 months.

How many pigeons live in the Las Vegas Valley?

Estimates are about 750,000, or one for every three people.

And parks workers are counting how many fewer pigeons?

They aren’t tagging populations to determine if the numbers are decreasing, the way those in the feral cat-reduction business are. But Parker said complaints about pigeon droppings are down. Maintenance workers also seem to be spending less time scrubbing pigeon poop off benches and other park equipment.

What about the gophers?

Rodenator: Boom! Goodbye Gophers

The gopher infestation - and subsequent bitings and twisted ankles - at Sunset Park in Henderson has led to some drastic measures. Four to five days a week, a park maintenance worker hunts the fields for gopher holes, armed with the newest in humane gopher-killing weaponry: the Rodenator. See it in action in this video: when a worker finds a fresh mound, he uses the long rod of the Rodenator to pump propane into the gopher's burrow, and then "boom!," the gophers have been euthanized.

Parker says the county has used the Rodenator to control pocket gophers for about six years and likely always will because it works so well. The Rodenator is a device that looks like the hose used to fill your car with gas. They use it to inject an oxygen-propane vapor into a gopher hole. A spark ignites the vapor, resulting in an explosion that sends a deadly air concussion through the hole at 5,000 feet per second.

Awww, the cute little things — do they have to do this?

Pocket gophers in local parks have been around for decades and, Parker said, once rendered many fields almost unusable because people would twist ankles or worse when stepping into a hole while running. Children have also been bitten, requiring rabies shots, he said.

“Gopher control is one of those things that will never end,” Parker says, noting that they feed on the roots of Bermuda grass that covers grassy park areas. “But the Rodenator is the most successful control we’ve used in 28 years.”

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