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Alberta does not support federal proposal to ban use of strychnine for gophers

The Alberta government is telling Ottawa it does not support a federal proposal to ban the use of liquid strychnine poison for killing prairie gophers.

Alberta Agriculture strychnine is the only effective tool for controlling gophers

A Richardson's ground squirrel takes in the golf action at a golf course in Banff, Alta. in this file photo. The Alberta government is opposing a federal proposal to ban the use of liquid strychnine poison for killing prairie gophers. (The Canadian Press)

The Alberta government is telling Ottawa it does not support a federal proposal to ban the use of liquid strychnine poison for killing prairie gophers.

Gophers, which burrow underground, can damage crops and hurt livestock.

Health Canada is proposing to ban the use of strychnine to control the rodents, formally known as the Richardson ground squirrel.

There is concern strychnine kills other animals, including species at risk such as the swift fox and the burrowing owl.

The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency is accepting feedback on the proposed ban until next Thursday.

Alberta Agriculture says producers are worried about the financial implications of a ban because strychnine is the only effective tool for controlling gophers.

"Alberta has about 24 million seeded acres of crop each year with an estimate of $5 billion of production value," Carrie Sancartier, a department spokeswoman, said in an email.

"Richardson ground squirrel populations have the potential to explode in the absence of viable control options. This could result in huge financial impacts to agricultural producers."

The Government of Saskatchewan says it does not support the proposed ban but is still studying Ottawa's proposal.

The Ministry of Agriculture says it will submit its response to the federal regulatory agency before the end of the consultation deadline next week.

"It is the (Saskatchewan) government's opinion that, when used according to the label, strychnine is the most efficient and effective control measure for Richardson's ground squirrels and has limited environmental impact," Jamie Fischer, a ministry spokesperson, said in an email Thursday.

"The loss of strychnine could also result in more reliance on anticoagulant rodenticides, which are more costly and labour intensive for producers.

"Anticoagulants represent a greater risk to non-target species than strychnine and strychnine is the most effective product when used according to the product label."

Groups including the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities also oppose the proposed ban.

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