A Minnesota mother and son have been accused of stealing thousands of dollars’ worth of gopher feet -- a serious crime in Harmony Township, located 120 miles outside of Minneapolis.
Tina Marie Garrison, 37, and Junior Lee Dillon, 18, allegedly broke into a man’s garage to steal nearly $5,000 worth of gopher feet from a freezer, KAALTV reports. They have been charged with four counts each, two of which are felonies, and could face up to 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine, or both.
Gopher feet are a pricey commodity in some Minnesota townships, paying about $3 for a pair of feet to control the rodent population that destroys farmers’ fields. In some studies, gophers have reduced alfalfa yields by up to 46 percent. Their mounds can damage mowing and baling equipment, and their burrows can injure grazing animals, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Michael Junge, who has been trapping gophers for the past two decades and catches about 15 per day, stores the feet in a freezer in his garage. In December, Junge called the police after he noticed bags of the feet were missing. In fact, that number turned out to be 1,400 pairs of stolen gopher feet.
"Because of the value, I just wanted to get some money back," Junge told KAALTV about his reasons for pressing charges.
The pair was arrested after police discovered that Dillon and Garrison turned in $1,014 and $3,780, respectively, in feet -- unusually high amounts according to township clerks, the Post-Bulletin reports.
Both deny any wrongdoing. Dillion said someone may have used his name to turn in the feet. Garrison said the feet belonged to friends from her oldest son, and she turned them in on their behalf, the Post-Bulletin reports.
This isn’t Garrison's or Dillon’s first brush with the law. Both have been convicted of misdemeanors including assault, brawling and fighting, according to court documents.
Junge said he plans on taking extra precautions with his pricey gopher feet in the future. "I’m afraid I'm going to have to put a lock on the freezer maybe," Junge said.