Bounty hunters will have a chance at earning money this year with the renewed bounty on gopher feet.
“We’ve had this bounty since I’ve been here,” said Sandy Hysell, Union County auditor. “I started in 1989, so it’s even been before me.”
The bounty may have some historical significance. Gophers are small tunnelling animals and considered pests in North America. The tunnels disrupt commercial agriculture, garden plots, underground cables and landscaping.
“I think it used to be more popular than it actually is now,” said Union County Supervisor Ron Riley. “In alfalfa fields and hay fields in this area, they got to be such a problem that quite a few years ago, they put a bounty on them to alleviate the pest. ... I know there’s not near the issue as there used to be, but we continue to keep the bounty on them for those who continue to trap them.”
The bounty consists of $1 for one pair of front feet per gopher. Hysell counts the pairs brought in, and gives the customer a receipt for the amount of money based on the number of pairs.
“We don’t get them hardly ever,” Hysell said. “I mean, when I started, it seemed like at least one or two people would bring in a huge coffee can full.”
Hysell said she recommends freezing the feet before taking them to the Union County Auditor’s office to avoid the smell. After counting them, the feet are destroyed.
“I get my paper towel out, and we dump them out. I’m counting, trying not to barf on the counter,” Hysell said. “And then, I wad them up and put them back in the can, and I call Paul, our custodian, and say, ‘Do something with this.’ We disinfect the counter and give him (the customer) a receipt, he goes to the treasurer’s office and he gets his money.”
Hysell said she hasn’t received gopher feet in several years, and the last receipt she gave to a customer added up to more than $10. She also said there are no other animal bounties in Union County.
However, according to Riley, there isn’t much use for the bounty anymore.
“Best I can answer is we’ve had one as long as I can remember,” Riley said. “We did discuss that (the use). It’s something we could discuss discontinuing.”