Protecting the Land

 

Spring has arrived. The grass is greener. The cows are leaner. And the rodents are multiplying. Gophers can ruin acres of land and endanger your livestock.

  

Revitalizing the land is something Chuck Guetz, of Comanche Creek Enterprises, specializes in. When I ask how he got his start in the business, he says, “In 2007 I was addressing a significant issue with pocket gophers in our alfalfa field. They made the field very rough, consumed at least 20 to 30% of the plants, clogged the swather head and left dirt in the bales. In researching how neighbors addressed the issue, I found the only reasonable means to address the problem was building an artificial burrow laced with poisoned grain in hopes that the gopher would consume the grain. In most cases the neighbors reported less than 50% impact, undesirable chisel lines in the field and difficulty in accessing grain in a timely matter, since grain has a shelf life.

 

“I found PERC (pressurized exhaust rodent control) through research on the internet. It was invented and developed in the Tule Lake Valley of CA, the largest producing area of alfalfa in the US.

“We purchased the first machine in 2008, cleaned up our alfalfa field and began working with the neighbors who then purchased a machine also. After selling the product in a 10 state central region for several years we settled on the service side of the rodent control industry. Because it is such a safe and effective product, especially for pocket gophers and prairie dogs, government municipalities across the front range have become our largest customers. We also work with many ranchers, farmers and landowners throughout the state. Prairie dog control dominates the lions share in what we do; we currently operate three to four commercial machines simultaneously to devastate populations quickly. This addresses migration and quick repopulation of the colonies. Controlling prairie dogs is a war; you can win a battle but you must have a long term plan to revisit any site. Prairie dogs have between four and eight pups annually, their primary predator are fox and raptors. I’ve witnessed population explosions of over 800% in an eighteen month span.”

  

Intrigued, I ask, “How can people know if there is a rodent infestation? Why should people get rid of rodent infestations on their property?”

 

He says, “Most rodent problems are obvious. With pocket gophers there will be fresh, loose mounds appearing overnight. Hay farmers know them well, for land owners, areas of concern would be around leach fields, deciduous trees, vinyl irrigation piping, gardens etc. Prairie dogs are quite apparent; any size population will be a problem. Addressing a problem later will always be more expensive.”

 

I ask how the method works, and if it is humane. Is there a danger to other animals or pets? He assures me it is completely humane and safe. “Pressurized carbon monoxide is very effective. Though we are not using any more CO than your large lawn mower can produce, we direct it in a very specific location with very lethal amounts for a specific period of time. Rodents are euthanized immediately. The CO attaches to blood cells that shut down brain function first, putting them to sleep without pain. Any living creature outside of the burrow system is safe… remember, it’s a lawn mower engine with gasses injected in a covered burrow. There is more risk of CO poisoning in a bad furnace or a poorly ventilated vehicle than in our method.”

 

Gopher control isn’t the only thing Comanche Creek Enterprises accomplishes for its customers. They added grass revegetation options in 2012. They have planted native grasses, alfalfa and wheat grasses using a no-til drill to conserve moisture and land preparations. “We work closely with NRCS prescribed grass mixes and known native grass experts such as Don Hijar, owner of Pawnee Buttes Seed CO, to determine appropriate mixes for each individual situation,” he says. “We have done large projects that include the Penrose Water District and Douglas County Open Space, but most of our work is with the small private land owner.”

 

Land management and Mother Nature continue to play the largest role in the successes of pastures and cropland, but they do their best to help that five to one hundred acre owner define, maintain and accomplish their personal land management goals. In many cases that may simply equate to a discussion of grazing, weed control and/or occasional fertilization without the introduction of new expensive grass seeding. While the grasses along the front range of Colorado are very hardy, they can be easily overgrazed or overwhelmed by rodents. Comanche Creek offers limited heavy brush and grass mowing when time and equipment allows.

 

I ask him what he likes most about his job. With a broad grin, he says, “Easily, the greatest pleasure that comes from our business is getting to know our likeminded neighbors and hopefully providing solutions to their problems. So many of us have a need for equipment on an acreage that we just can’t justify or afford. If we don’t have the knowledge and equipment to help them in most cases we know where to send them!”

So, what does he do with his time off?

 

“That’s easy,” he laughs. “First and foremost, any chance we get we want to spend time with our first grandbaby! Anytime spent with our daughters, our family, are the best recipe for fun. We love our church and all of the neighbors we get to see each week, it’s always something we look forward to. We bought a camper this last year and we were lucky enough to spend nearly three weeks camping in AZ during the snow of February. The desert is fascinating!”

 

That it is, but there’s no place quite like home. w