Gophers invade Yakima Air Terminal

YAKIMA, Wash. -- At first they're tough to see but look closer - mounds of dirt with holes in the middle. The place pocket gophers call home.

"This one here's a fresh mound. He just started digging last night," said Yakima Airfield Maintenance Specialist, Mike Bridenback.

Digging up dirt just off the taxiway and next to the runways.

These rodents might look cute to some, but to airports they're a threat. Their constant burrowing could weaken the pavement planes use to take off and land.

"If a plane gets off that and these things get frozen, we can't have more than a 3-inch lip as far as the plane hitting them at high speed," said Bridenback.

Predators like hawks pose another potential threat. They could swoop down looking for a meal and interfere with flights. None of this can be tolerated.

Yakima Air Terminal Manager Robert Peterson says it's like playing a game of whack-a-mole.

"The mower goes out there. We knock down the mounds and they will auto-populate right after the mowing operations."

The new plan is to call in the pros with the United States Department of Agriculture. City Council is considering spending about $30,000 to bring in wildlife specialists to take care of the problem by using strychnine to poison the rodents.

Until then, tractors continue to make rounds to raze the mounds. And then raze them again.