A former farmer from California says he's developed a safe, effective tool for controlling gophers, ground squirrels and other burrowing animals that damage forage crops and haying equipment.

Allen Hurlburt of Tulelake developed the Pressurized Exhaust Rodent Controller (PERC) after reflecting on the offhand comment of a farming friend about losing income to gophers. His invention is a gas engine-powered system that builds up carbon monoxide in a compressor and then releases the deadly gas into an animal's burrow.

“Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless,” he says. “Because it's pressurized, it's in the burrow before the animal has a chance to leave.”

In University of California field trials, 65% of gophers and 75% of ground squirrels were consistently killed, Hurlburt maintains.

“We have about 180 units in the field,” he says. “We've sold them from Florida to the Midwest, on the East and West Coasts, with the majority of sales on the West Coast. There are about 15 or 20 in Canada, too.”

His business, H & M Gopher Control, operates out of the former barracks of a World War II Japanese internment camp. A local company fabricates the PERC bases, then Hurlburt and his employees do the welding and assembly.

Three models are available, offering two motor sizes (13 or 6.5 hp) and two compressor-pump capacities (33 or 15 cfm). Each model includes a gas engine, compressor pump, reels and probes, exhaust cooling coils, centrifugal clutch drive and antivibration motor mounts. The two trailer-mounted models include a 2" ball coupler and trailer jack.

Each unit has four reels with 50' hoses attached to valved hand probes. One probe can fill a 600' burrow with carbon monoxide in two minutes, killing the gopher, says Hurlburt. Four probes in one burrow will do the job in 30 seconds, he adds.

According to him, University studies in California and Montana revealed that 10% or more of the yield in a new alfalfa stand can be lost to gophers. He says the researchers also reported that dirt from gopher mounds is captured in bales and poses a health hazard to livestock, especially dairy cattle, when they consume the forage.

“Any bacteria related to fecal matter contamination can grow in that bale,” he says. “Dirt causes wear and tear on equipment and also creates a serious safety issue if the equipment operator gets underneath a swather, especially a rotary model, to dig that dirt out.”

Among his PERC selling points are its safety and effectiveness.

“Nothing explodes, there's no fire danger and you don't have to tear up your root system to use this equipment,” he says.

For more information, visit www.handmgophercontrol.com.