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calendar   Thursday - November 05, 2009

It really does exist!

Bun-Vac 6000 based on actual machine



This post may be almost meaningless to those who aren’t Wallace & Gromit fans. Wallace and his dog Gromit star in a series of adorable and funny claymation films. Wallace is this wacky inventor (and cheese lover) who builds devices that always go wrong, and Gromit is his wise and cynical dog who winds up saving the day, often at great peril to himself. Alas, W&G have gone the way of CGI. Their home studio, Aardman Animations, burned down a while back, and I think I’ve heard they were bought out, or at least majorly funded, by one of the big digital animation studios like Pixar. If you’ve never seen one of their films you’re missing out. They’re not just for kids. W&G creator Nick Park also did the Serta mattress commercials with the numbered sheep.

Anyway ... Wallace invented a giant vacuum cleaner called the Bun-Vac 6000 for sucking rabbits out of their holes and into a holding area for later remote release. It was the funniest thing. I laughed so hard watching Curse of the Were-Rabbit, especially the panicked bunnies frantically holding on to their holes as they were being sucked up.

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But who knew this device was not only for real, but has been in operation for almost two decades? Ok, the real one doesn’t suck up rabbits. Not yet. It sucks up prairie dogs. By the hundreds. And is making the inventors/operators Dave Honaker and Gay Balfour a tidy pile of cash. Prairie dogs are quite a nuisance out West, and their towns can have thousands of the little rodents. But for $150/hr Dog-Gone Prairie Dog Control of Cortez CO can get rid of hundreds of the pests in a day, without any worries about any stray bullets flying around from the traditional hunting solution.

DENVER—Like a doctor feeling for a pulse, Dave Honaker lays his hands on the wide, plastic hose. It begins to vibrate as pebbles and dirt rush through. It shudders a bit, then is still.

Honaker smiles. The furry body of a prairie dog, still in its subterranean hole, is plugging the end of the hose. It’s only a matter of time now.

“You can feel when he’s fighting back,” Honaker yells over the roar of the powerful suction. “He’s got a good hold, and then he loses it.” Just then, the hose jolts, and with a rumbling whoosh, the rodent shoots up the hose. “One!” Honaker mouths, his eyes gleaming with excitement. A moment later, another whoosh. “Two!” “It’s like playing the violin,” Honaker says modestly. “After five years, you get a little better.” Honaker is a master of the latest in rodent-control technology—the prairie dog vacuum.

Aptly named Dog-Gone, it was invented by Honaker’s partner, Gay Balfour, who literally dreamed up this Rube Goldberg-like contraption. It came to him one night five years ago in his Cortez, Colo., home. Balfour first needed a truck. On the way home, he stopped by his local sewer district office and was astonished to learn a truck used for cleaning out sewer lines and manholes was for sale. It was yellow. Next, he went to the industrial supply store and there, hanging on the wall, were four-inch hoses. They were green. “I don’t know what you believe in,” Balfour said, “but I believe it’s supposed to happen that way.”

He modified the truck, attached the hose and, within three days, was back at the Indian reservation sucking up prairie dogs. At 300 mph, the critters hurtled through a four-inch plastic hose. Like cannonballs, they shot out the end into a big tank on the back of the truck, first slamming into a wall of thick foam rubber, then toppling onto a foam and dirt-covered floor. It all made for a wild ride for the squirrel-like rodents. And, for the most part, they fared well—a little dazed and confused at first, but scampering around almost immediately. In the first 45 minutes, Balfour caught 23 prairie dogs. The tribe was so impressed, it gave him a $6,000 contract. He caught 1,000 prairie dogs. Balfour was in business. Since then, he and Honaker have been traveling to prairie dog towns across the Southwest. Balfour drives the yellow truck, and Honaker tows an old trailer they live in at job sites. Depending on the job, they either relocate, exterminate or sell the prairie dogs for pets or meat.

“We kind of like these guys ... We’re animal lovers,” Dave explains.

It’s a matter of responsible ecology, Gay says.

On a good day, Dave and Gay can suck hundreds of the 3-pound rodents out of their burrows.

Gay and Dave try to find private landowners willing to give the dogs new homes in places far from cities or ranches. Many are sold as food for endangered eagles, hawks and ferrets.

The truck stays busy spring and summer, but can only capture a few thousand prairie dogs in a given year. Countless other dogs are still in the way of ranchers, farmers and developers, and suffice to say, they don’t all get a free ride on a yellow truck out of prairie dog town.

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I guess they really are pesky little suckers after all!




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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 11/05/2009 at 05:54 PM   
Filed Under: • Fun-StuffNeat Inventions •  
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