Don’t let a gopher get the best of you or your backyard! Learn how to get rid of gophers and keep them away with several simple solutions.
What are gophers?
Pocket gophers, commonly referred to simply as gophers, are burrowing rodents of the family Geomyidae. The roughly 41 species are all endemic to North and Central America. They are commonly known for their extensive tunneling activities and their ability to destroy farms and gardens.
The “pockets” open externally on each side of the mouth and extend from the face to the shoulders; they can be everted for cleaning. The lips can be closed behind the protruding, chisel-like upper front teeth, which thereby allows the gopher to excavate soil without ingesting it. Thickset and cylindrical, pocket gophers are 12 to 35 cm in body length, with a short neck, small eyes and ears, and short legs. The five front digits on each muscular foreleg bear long and powerful digging claws. The short, sparsely haired tail is sensitive and well supplied with blood vessels and nerves. Coat color varies among species from almost white through tones of yellow and brown to black.
All pocket gophers create a network of tunnel systems that provide protection and a means of collecting food. They are larder hoarders, and their cheek pouches are used for transporting food back to their burrows. Gophers can collect large hoards. Unlike ground squirrels, gophers do not live in large communities and seldom find themselves above ground. Tunnel entrances can be identified by small piles of loose soil covering the opening. Burrows are in many areas where the soil is softer and easily tunneled. Gophers often visit vegetable gardens, lawns, or farms, as they like moist soil. This has led to their frequent treatment as pests.
Gophers eat plant roots, shrubs, and other vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, radishes, and any other vegetables with juice. Some species are considered agricultural pests. The resulting destruction of plant life then leaves the area a stretch of denuded soil. At the same time, the soil disturbance created by turning it over can lead to the early establishment of ecological succession in communities of r-selected and other ruderal plant species. The stashing and subsequent decomposition of plant material in the gophers’ larder can produce deep fertilization of the soil.
What’s the difference between gophers and prairie dogs?
Prairie dogs and gophers are both rodent species living in North America. Though both the prairie dog and gopher live in burrows underground and hibernate in winter, there are a number of differences between the two.
Prairie dogs are the size of rabbits. Gophers, on the other hand, are squirrel-sized rodents.
Prairie dogs are herbivores, strictly living on berries, roots and leaves. Gophers, on the other hand, are omnivores. They feed on nuts, seeds, berries, grass and bugs. Gophers also are known for stuffing their cheek pouches with an enormous amount of food, much like hamsters, while prairie dogs do not.
Prairie dogs live in underground burrows, warrens and tunnels in the plains of North America. Though, gophers also live underground, they do so in the mountainous regions of North America.
Because prairie dogs like to live underneath prime farmland, their numbers have dwindled by an alarming 98 percent, as farmers have taken to destroying them in order to save their land. Because gophers tend to live in mountainous regions, they do not have to worry about human predators as much as their prairie-loving counterparts.
Prairie dogs tend to live in smaller burrows, consisting of one male, a few females and their young. However, gophers live in large “towns” consisting of thousands of their kind.
What attracts gophers to your yard?
Humans aren’t the only ones who love a beautiful yard! Here are a few things that may be drawing gophers to your property:
Gophers need to eat, and they’ll set up shop anywhere they can find ample food sources. Gophers are herbivores, which means they only eat vegetation. They especially love the roots and tubers of plants but will occasionally resort to “grazing” the lawn for grass, clover, and other snacks.
Because gophers love to excavate, they prefer to live in areas with loose, sandy soil that’s easy to move.
Gophers are a prey animal for many other animals, so they need plenty of protection to stay safe. They may build tunnels under bushes, along fence lines, or under trees.
What’s the sign of gopher infestation in your house?
There are two common signs that a gopher has invaded your property:
The first sign of a gopher in your lawn or garden is often the sudden appearance of a dirt mound. The mound is formed as the gopher discards excess soil above ground during construction of its tunnel. The mound may appear fan-shaped while the gopher is actively removing dirt, but it will often assume a round or oval shape once the gopher finishes excavation in that location and plugs the exit hole. The gopher will then continue excavating its many tunnels and chambers, depositing additional dirt mounds throughout the lawn.
Dirt mounds may not always be present or visible. A gopher may suddenly arrive from an adjacent property or from the other side of a privacy fence. Any sudden and unexplained damage to or loss of vegetation could signal an invasion from this opportunistic feeder. Gophers usually attack plants from within their tunnels and begin eating them from the roots up. Small plants can be pulled down into the tunnel and completely disappear.
Gophers can also forage above the ground. When they do, they will normally attack plants and trees just above the soil line. They may take a few bites out of the plant or girdle a small tree.
How to get rid of gophers?
A single gopher can dig several mounds a day. Imagine the damage a whole gopher family can cause to your yard. Gophers gnaw on irrigation lines, sprinklers, and buried cables. Gophers also can harm your plants’ roots.
Trapping is an effective and nontoxic gopher control method. The best time to trap is in the fall and spring.
The key to setting these gopher traps is finding the main runway of a tunnel. The main runway will be near a fresh mound. You’ll have discovered the runway when your probe sinks 4 to 12 inches into the ground. Stake down two traps into the tunnel facing each other.
If you do not catch a gopher within 2 to 3 days, move the trap to a different tunnel. You’ll have trapped your gopher(s) when no new mounds appear.
This control method is very effective but can affect other animal populations such as owls, foxes, and coyotes. Follow all labeled directions when using poison baits.
Spring is the best time to use poison baits, as this is when a gopher’s food supply is low. Apply bait to the main runway tunnel and plug the burrow holes after application.
Check the area periodically for two weeks after initial treatment and remove any deceased gopher(s)
Underground fencing may not remove the gophers from your land, but it can help deter them from your plants. Before planting, bury hardwire cloth or 3/4-inch mesh poultry wire at least 2 feet under raised beds. Bend 6 inches of mesh or wire at a 90-degree angle away from the plants.
Wire baskets also can protect individual plants. Remember to leave enough room for the roots to grow. This solution can be ineffective against a rather persistent set of gophers who burrow under the wires. The wire does have the potential to restrict proper root growth.
Using barn owls to control your gophers does come with limitations. For starters, you will need to install barn owl boxes to encourage barn owls to nest on your property.
While you may invite enough barn owls to prey on your gophers, barn owls like to range far from their nesting boxes for food. So even if your barn owl boxes attract barn owls, there is no guarantee the owls will target the gophers so near their home.
Recommended Trapall Products:
Trapall has been an experienced manufacturer and supplier of gopher control products for many years. We have developed various of traps, repellents and other accessories to help you expel and eliminate your nasty neighbors:
- Metal Mouse Rat Eliminator (ATM2860)
- Outdoor Metal Gopher Trap (ATM2821)
- Live Catch Mole Mouse Trap (ATPL6826)
- Gopher Rodent Control Ultrasonic Mole Repeller (ATE1136)
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