A lot of guys are looking to get a gopher blaster these days, but not always for the reason you might think. Where do you fit in?
Do you really have an incredible gopher problem that is beyond the scope of ordinary gopher control measures?
Or are you one of the guys who sees a video of these explosive devices and responds “That is so cool. I wish I had gophers so I could get one of those!”
Either way, you have a few decisions ahead of you on your journey to being the proud owner of a "gopher blaster personal rodent destruction unit".
Trying to figure out which way to go, or to sort through the conflicting information, can be more difficult than trying to get rid of the gophers.
Let me give you a summary of what I found as I did research on what a gopher blaster can do or not do, and on the companies that make them.
This will be an objective review with a few personal observations. I’ll just share what I found and give you some sources to check for yourself, so you can make a wise decision about buying one of these neighborhood attention getters.
How Much Does A Gopher Blaster Cost?
You might as well find out right away, in case you had no idea. It may save you the time it takes to read the rest of the article. The cheapest unit will arrive at your home for just over $1,000. The top end models will set you back $1,900. Add to that the expense of propane and oxygen tanks.
If you have a serious gopher problem, especially a lot of acreage, it may be well worth the investment. If you were expecting the noise and fun to be a lot less, well, have a nice day, and check out the rest of the site before leaving. There’s a good article on gopher traps.
The expense of a gopher blaster is easily justified for those in an agricultural setting. Crop losses to rodent damage can be tremendous. California is a prime agricultural region where losses from ground squirrels alone add up easily to $40 million a year. Gopher activity can cut alfalfa production by 45%.
Add to that the time and trouble of using traps or poison, if those are even feasible, and the practical aspect of these tools to protect a large area can quickly balance the cost.
Consider if you spent $2000 and the tool lasted 4 years. That amounts to $500 a year, or about $40 per month. What have you lost in valuable plants to these free-loaders? If your expenses have been high in losing crops or replacing landscape plants, it may be a cheap option in the long run.
In fact, a gopher blaster could pay for itself in one season, for a new landscaping project. With plant expenses running into the tens of thousands of dollars, saving a mere 10 or 20% of the specimens would cover the cost.
There are other benefits to be gained by using a gopher blaster which can be extremely valuable themselves, in addition to, or even disregarding, the gopher elimination. That will follow.
What Is A Gopher Blaster And How Does It Work?
A gopher blaster is a device that mixes together propane and oxygen in a carefully calibrated percentage. It dispenses this gas mixture into the tunnel or holes of gophers, squirrels or other rodents. An electronic ignition activates an explosion underground which kills anything in the tunnel. In most cases it also collapses the tunnel structure so that it is not available for the next round of gophers that show up.
Is it fire that kills the gopher, or the force of the explosion, or getting buried in the tunnel collapse? All of those have been presented by different individuals as the primary means of killing the underground residents. Many criticize it as being inhumane.
One manufacturer in an interview stated that rodents die from massive concussive pressure that produces a deadly hemorrhage at the base of the brain. The expanding oxygen would also explode the lungs. This would likely be the case with all devices of this type.
That may sound quite drastic, but death would be quick, and certainly less traumatic than poisons or traps. The shock wave created by the explosion is impressive. It is calculated that the gases expand when ignited at the rate of 5,000 feet per second. The rodent doesn’t know what hit, with this kind of a concussion.
How Effective Is A Gopher Blaster?
Based on comments from a wide range of sources, people using a gopher blaster estimate the kill rate to be as low as 30-40% in one test with ground squirrels and as high as 95-98% in another sample with gophers. Results of everything in-between come from private individuals, professional exterminators, and agricultural agents who have used or observed this procedure in action and watched for renewed activity.
Depending on which level of kill rate you might attain, the gopher blaster may not compare with poisons or trapping, in a single treatment. Those methods consistently produce 80-90% extermination, for a seasoned user.
When poisons cannot be used, or trapping is not feasible, a gopher blaster may be an advantage at any success rate. The simplicity of the unit makes it very practical to blast another round or two, to get any tunnels and gophers that were missed. The advantage of that is having the tunnel network completely destroyed in the end.
Other Benefits Of A Gopher Blaster
Also a factor in rating the effectiveness is the time and ease of the procedure. The California department responsible for maintaining almost 60 miles of levees reported that their time committed to rodent control on the levees was reduced from 5-6 weeks to less than 10 days.
A primary reason why this invention is so effective, is that propane is heavier than air. The gas stays in the tunnel and distributes rapidly to the lower levels. This means the gophers have no where to hide.
The fact that the tunnel is destroyed is a unique benefit of this type of gopher control. Conventional methods of killing gophers do nothing to restrict the movement of new gophers into the area. Destroying the tunnel system slows down gopher activity and also makes their presence obvious when they start building new mounds.
Horse owners are familiar with the danger presented by gopher tunnels. Injuries to horses who step in a hole or collapse a tunnel are serious, sometimes resulting in the animal being euthanized.
Collapsing the tunnels is also a good thing when flood irrigation is used, to prevent the undesired transportation of water out of the area.
Is A Gopher Blaster Safe To Use, For The Property And The Operator?
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, safety is in the hand of the operator. Manufacturers have been able to develop sensible units with proper safeguards.
Hopefully the user will have as much sense to use it correctly and in a proper area. Videos on company websites demonstrate controlled use, often with impressive results. But there are a lot of homemade videos showing various gopher blasters in use. One of them was a fellow setting it off numerous times in his small backyard. One blast set dry grass on fire right next to his house. (Since the house was brick, he was proud enough of this to show the video???)
Another video shows fire blasting out of the tunnel, directly at the operator. It would be wise to observe where you stand, relative to the hole, and probably not a good idea to mess with the mixture. The devices are calibrated to use only 3% to 5% propane in the mixture. Altering that design could have unexpected consequences.
Investigate any unit you consider buying, to find out what devices it has to prevent flashback toward the operator. Flame arrestors, check valves, and other components are critical for operator safety.
The most common models are a hand held wand that dispenses the gas mixture. The operator must stand right at the tunnel entrance while igniting. At least two models have some type of remote igniter that allows him to retreat from the immediate area.
Anyone using a gopher blaster should wear appropriate safety gear, including a hard hat, goggles, ear protectors and gloves.
Though there is more concussion than flame, always be alert to fire danger. You should have on hand a fire extinguisher or readily available water supply in case of fire. Be certain that there are no local restrictions in effect during hazardous weather, drought conditions or seasonal fire danger periods. Scope out the area for potential hazards before starting. You have no idea how far a tunnel explosion could extend.
What will it look like after the tunnel collapses? A miniature war zone? Plan to do some redistribution of dirt if you want to eliminate dangerous depressions in the ground surface.
The explosions can be loud, so give thought to people or animals in the vicinity who may be affected and react negatively. You don’t want to hurt a horse by startling it to smash a fence when your intention was to prevent it from getting hurt in a gopher hole.
Who Makes Or Sells A Gopher Blaster?
The original term Gopher Blaster, best I can determine, was a unit built by Rodex Industries back in the 90’s. This company developed other models. One of them, the Rodex 4000, was a big seller, but for many people had problems that were not resolved.
You would not want to buy a used version of this model at any price. The company filed bankruptcy in 2003. This left room for other manufacturers to step into the market.
The Rodenator Pro
One new version of these devices is the Rodenator Pro by Meyer Industries. This was developed by a man who was previously with the marketing and sales division of Rodex. He saw the potential and pulled together a team to make improvements and modifications in a new model. This unit is promoted as the only system of its kind that is registered with the EPA.
Numerous sources claim that the Rodenator is verified by several organic crediting agencies, which would be an important consideration for organic growers. This information is not posted on their website, so you would have to contact them for documentation. You would also want to confirm any approval with your own certifier.
This unit sells for $1890, with accessories. It has a two year warranty.
(DISCLAIMER: This price & all prices on this page have not been updated for a long time. I leave them here for relative value until i have time to update. Contact manufacturer for pricing.)
The Rodex gopher blasters have returned. Investors who bought the trademark and property rights have built a new business, Rodex Sales and Service. They offer three models in different price ranges and capabilities, to meet the needs of the professional pest operator or a rancher/farmer, or a small land owner.
The typical homeowner may find appealing the lower price of the Rodex 4000 Plus. Investigate that carefully. If you read between the lines on the description of this model, you should have some reservations. In a press release posted on their site, they only mention the two better models, so it sounds as though they are not very proud of the entry level, basic unit.
The Rodex 4000 Plus is $995.00. The 5000 Plus is $1475.00 The 6000 is $1875. The 5000 and 6000 have a one year warranty. The 4000 warranty is not specified.
Rodex has a very informative page, an operator’s manual, on their site that details the assembly, preparation and use of the unit. This will give you a good perspective of what is involved in using a gopher blaster. Take the time to read this before you purchase.
The Varmit Getter
This manufacturer claims to have some unique features in their Varmit Getter. They don’t use torch handles and mixing tips, they have a unique mixing technique for the gas injection, and the operator can adjust the intensity of the blast from within the control box.
They state that a louder explosion means much of the explosive force was not confined to blasting the tunnel. I don’t know if that is a logical deduction or not, but it would be good to be able to control the intensity of the blast.
This unit has the greatest distance of separation for the operator with the remote ignition. The unit sells for $1495.00 and has a one year warranty.
The Rodent Blaster
The Rodent Blaster is only mentioned here because it comes up on a search for “gopher blaster”, and some of you may have heard of it. The web site of this company is not functional. Only the home page is accessible. They offer separate pieces or a complete package at $1299.00. There is a minimum amount of information. There is no way to order a unit or contact the company at this point.
How Do You Select A Gopher Blaster?
The best answer for that question is the same as for how you use a gopher blaster - Very Carefully.
It is difficult to tell from the information provided, which unit is the best value. A product like this needs to be reliable, safe, well designed and well built. The company has to be able to provide you with prompt, professional service and they must stand behind their product. You must be able to get parts or service for these units in a timely manner. The company should be stable so it will be around many years from now.
Do any of these companies listed above fit that description? Perhaps they suggest that they do. Unfortunately, in researching the topic gopher blaster, I encountered a number of blogs and forums where these various units and the companies were discussed.
It was brutal, to say the least. There were plenty of people sharing opinions tearing down each of them. There were just as many people on the other side, praising the virtues of the machine or the company. Final verdict? Any product made has its detractors and proponents. As they say, your results may vary. I think it really gets down to the credibility of the company.
Information Available On The Internet
It was difficult to investigate the Varmit Getter. Most sites that appear in a web search are talking about shooting varmints with their varmint rifles. The company has had a website since early 2004, but there is little feedback found.
The Rodenator had an overwhelming amount of material on the merits of their Pro gopher blaster. Unfortunately, the bulk of them all sounded the same, in the way of press releases, articles, and interviews. Their marketing department has pulled out all the stops to make it look like they are the dominant candidate, and the best thing since the proverbial sliced bread.
The Rodex company bore many comments that have it fighting a negative image. Probably due to association with the previous company that was not responsive to some of its customers, it might have made sense to disassociate, and change their name. The fact that they chose not to do that could suggest they are willing to take the heat and prove themselves. This company had positive comments by some and may be building a fine reputation.
What is your best bet with a substantial investment like this?
Check first to see if they have a local distributor in your general area. It would be good to have someone who is not actually part of headquarters who could talk to you. Ask about customers who are using the units, what they like and dislike. Ask about the cooperation and support they get from corporate.
Next, contact the manufacturer. Send them an e-mail, and call them, and maybe even send them a letter the old fashioned way. Ask questions. Ask tough questions. Ask how long you can expect the unit to last under different conditions. Ask about their process for getting parts and/or repairs done.
See how quickly they respond and how they react to you. Ask for references of people in your area who have purchased the product. A testimonial that they print in their material is always questionable. A personal referral could be worth a lot.
Hopefully this has made your investigation into a gopher blaster a bit more organized and productive. I have attempted to be objective in pointing out any features or observations which might affect your satisfaction in owning one of these tools.
I do not endorse one of these products over another. If I have any agenda, it is merely to promote the use of any method which avoids having to use poisons, which are someday going to bite us all.
The websites and addresses for each of these companies follows.
Contact A Gopher Blaster Company
PO Box 39
80 Depot Street
Midvale ID 83645
Technical Support: 208-355-7000
Rodex Sales and Service, LLC
1077 S.E. 2nd St.
Ontario, OR 97914
Phone Number: 1-800-407-2943 (or) 541-889-7775
130 North Main Street
Payette, ID 83661
Toll-free 1-877-XVARMIT (1-877-982-7648)
Credits And Comments
The photos on this page of a gopher blaster in action are those furnished on the Varmit Getter site.
The video mentioned is on You Tube. Just copy this title: Pest Control Caddy Shack Style and paste it in the search box of You Tube or Google.
Each of the main manufacturers has video demonstrations of their product. They are fun! Watch them all.
Any personal information you have related to any type of gopher blaster unit or the maker is welcomed. What is your experience with them? Help another prospect make a better decision by sharing what you know!
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