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SE Minn. woman pleads not guilty to gopher feet theft

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A Preston, Minn. woman is going to trial after being accused of stealing frozen gopher feet worth thousands of dollars.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports 37-year-old Tina Marie Garrison and her 18-year-old son, Junior Lee Dillon, were charged for allegedly swiping evidence of the pests, which are known for damaging cropland, from a gopher trapper in Fillmore County. Gopher feet sell for about $3 per pair.

The newspaper reports the owner contacted local townships that offer bounties for gophers. He found that Dillon and Garrison turned in nearly $5,000 in gopher feet last November and December.

The complaint states that Dillon, who was a frequent visitor at the owner's home, denied taking them.

Garrison claimed that she received the feet from her oldest son who said he got them from a friend. Garrison told investigators that she was asked to collect the reward money because her son and his friend had to work and were unable turn them in.

Dillon is awaiting an omnibus hearing on July 29.

Gopher hunting has been a long-standing tradition in southeast Minnesota. The 139th Annual Gopher Count, which originated with local farmers competing to collect the most gopher feet, begins Thursday in Viola, Minn.

The practice is also a way to make a living in some areas.

“Old, retired guys hunt for them and collect the bounty and live off the money. It’s what they do," a Gopher Count event spokesperson said in a 2008 report.

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