The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 29, 2013

Cross: Gopher paw caper provided more than pocket change


Pocket gophers made the wanted list because of their habits of digging up dirt mounds that would break sickle mower blades, create hazards for livestock and otherwise hindering smooth farming operations.

While bounties for most every other critter has long since vanished, pocket gophers and striped gophers still have a price on their heads in many Minnesota counties.

The current going rate in Blue Earth County for a pair of pocket gopher paws is a dollar.

Striped gophers, aka, thirteen-lined ground squirrels (and the Gopher State namesake) will ring up 50 cents.

As I can recall from my own gopher-trapping days a half-century ago, a pocket gopher was worth a quarter, a striped gopher worth a dime.

So while the blood money paid for the critters has increased over the years, it hasn't exactly kept up with the pace of inflation.

Still, even accounting for that, $5,000 worth of gopher feet represents a mountain of dead gophers.

It is apparent the accused thieves weren't too bright.

Certainly the trapper was going to notice his pile of paws was missing.

And cashing in five Gs worth of gopher feet doesn't happen every day and tends to attract attention. The alleged culprits quickly were tracked down and arrested.

Of course, they are innocent until proven guilty.

In Minnesota, stealing property worth more than $1,000 qualifies as a felony so we're not exactly talking about over-time parking.

Depending on how habitual the thieves are, under sentencing guidelines set for thefts of less than $5,000, a tough judge could hand down a sentence of a year and a day in jail accompanied by a hefty fine.

More likely, they'll get a minimal fine and slapped with period of probation.

But they're lucky that there is no law against being stupid.

They'd be facing life sentences.


John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at




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