Carcasses of ground squirrels and gophers are often strewn along the roadside during spring and early summer; a major enemy of crops, they multiply rapidly in early spring, making their first appearance in late February. Gophers feed on the young shoots of grain and later attack the budding stalks, sometimes causing considerable destruction in the grain fields. Farmers try to exterminate them through poison and shooting, and they are hunted for sport by men and boys from the city; yet, so far, no way has been found to get rid of them. In July, their winter food supply safely stored away, they return to their burrows, while farmers plan the next season’s campaign against them.
A tale, often repeated among farmers, shows the gopher continuing his war against the farmer even during the winter: “An old man from west of Davenport … planted a lot of fruit trees. When winter came he was surprised to note that the snow in his orchard kept getting deeper all the time, while it remained about the same everywhere else. Finally, it got up to the limbs of the trees. When a thaw set in, the mystery was solved. The gophers, working underground, had first devoured the roots of the trees and then eaten the trunks, little by little, the tops settling down as fast as the trunks were cut off below.”