Gophers are regarded as dangerous agricultural pests in many places because of their ability to uproot plants, eat them, and destroy the soil. Since they breed very quickly and the invasion can be difficult to handle, many people want to understand the best way to irradicate them from their properties.
While difficult to handle, gophers can be trapped (in both lethal and non-lethal traps) or fenced out of your yard. They also avoid areas with predators, so letting beneficial predators into the yard will lower the gopher population.
This is just the tip of the iceberg! In today’s article, I’ll be providing insight into how to prevent gophers from ever coming into your yard as well as keeping them out for good!
- What Are Gophers
- What Attracts Gophers to Your Yard
- Signs of Gopher Damage
- How to Get Rid of Gophers Naturally
- How to Trap Gophers in Your Yard
- How to Prevent Gophers from Invading Your Yard
- FAQs Getting Rid of Gophers
- Verdict: How to Get Rid of Gophers
What Are Gophers
Gophers are small, burrowing rodents, similar to groundhogs in appearance, but much smaller. They can grow up to 14 inches in length and they have noticeable cheek pouches for carrying food.
Their fur varies in color, usually adapting to the habitat they’re found in, and their tails are usually covered in fur. The teeth of a gopher grow without stopping as they keep grinding them, and they grow to a very large size, so you’ll be able to recognize them with ease.
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Where Do Gophers Live
Globally, gophers are found in North and South America – anywhere from Canada to Colombia, while they’re most common in arid areas where the soil is loose enough for them to dig.
You can also find them in open fields and forests, but they’re not afraid of invading residential areas as they’re drawn to the food we provide, amongst other things.
They’re especially common around agricultural land because they mostly feed on roots.
What Attracts Gophers to Your Yard
There’s a reason gophers have invaded your yard – they wouldn’t be there if there was no food and if the soil wasn’t good enough for their burrowing habits.
Let’s take a look at some major attractants to help better understand how to get rid of gophers in your yard.
Gophers are exclusively herbivores – they mostly feed on the roots and tubers of various plants. This might sound inefficient, but roots contain a lot of calories and it’s easy for them to reach the roots as they’re constantly under the ground.
That way, they can stay safe while they’re eating.
Except for roots, gophers will eat the actual vegetable too, if they have the opportunity. Carrots, for example, are a common target because they grow into the ground.
They also look for food above the ground if there’s nothing for them below the ground. During the winter, it is common for them to eat tree bark to stay satiated since there’s usually less underground food for them.
If you have a vegetable garden that isn’t well protected, it’s very possible that gophers will burrow their way into it and feast on your vegetables and their roots.
Gophers will also eat fruit if they have the opportunity, but most fruit grows high above the ground, so this doesn’t happen as often.
Raw Materials for Burrow Making
Aside from food, which they’ll fill their burrows with to the brim as they get ready for winter, female gophers also need burrow materials. They’ll often dig a separate burrow just for giving birth to the pups, and they need to prepare the nest.
Nesting materials mostly consist of straw, mulch, and similar materials that provide insulation. They’ll stuff their cheeks with the materials and carry them to the inside of the burrow.
If you have a small homestead, it’s likely that there will be some straw lying around, and you can bet that the gophers will make good use of it.
While gophers are great diggers that can create a burrow in almost any type of soil, they prefer loose soil as it’s easier to dig. Crumbly soil with some sand is the best type of soil for gophers.
Their distribution is often restricted by the type of soil, so if your yard doesn’t have preferable soil, gophers might avoid it.
Signs of Gopher Damage
There are two obvious signs that a gopher is stirring trouble in your yard – lawn and soil destruction and damage to your crops.
When gophers dig, the soil has to go somewhere, right? That’s how your lawn gets destroyed.
If a gopher digs a burrow in your lawn, you’ll see mounds of fresh soil on the surface – this is fresh soil that the gopher threw out. There’ll be a hole in the middle of the mound, but it will be plugged.
Gophers plug their holes so other animals can’t get in.
Their soil digging can also cause problems with irrigation, as the soil can retain water for too long.
Aside from the lawn and the soil itself, according to Utah State University, Gophers can damage utility cables and underground piping, although that’s rare.
Since they feed on roots, your plants will start dying off one by one without a warning. The crop damage they can cause is unimaginable until you witness it personally, as they can destroy entire rows of vegetables in just a few days.
Aside from eating roots, they’ll eat the vegetables themselves and you’ll be able to see teeth marks.
How to Get Rid of Gophers Naturally
While catching and displacing gophers would be the ideal solution, there are ways to repel them from your yard with methods that don’t include you running around and chasing them. Let’s take a look.
Incorporate Scented Plants
Gophers are scent-reliant animals – they don’t see well and they can’t locate their food without using their sense of smell.
Introducing scenting plants will overwhelm their senses when they’re above the ground and they’ll avoid the area – if they can’t locate food, they won’t stay in the area.
The issue is – gophers don’t spend much time above the ground unless they need to. Since the smell of the plants can’t reach below the ground, it’s unlikely that gophers will smell it much.
However, it’s still a strategy worth incorporating as it will at least divert all gopher traffic above the ground away from your home.
According to research undertaken by the University of California, repellents are not an effective method when it comes to battling gophers. While some other pests can be repelled with chemical repellents, gophers are not on that list.
Even if they were, repellents aren’t good long-term solutions as they evaporate with time and they need to be reapplied every two weeks.
Use Predator Decoys
Predator decoys are often used to deter pests as they’ll avoid areas with predators. An issue with gophers is that they spend most of their time below the ground, and even when they’re above the ground, they don’t see well.
What you could do is place a toy snake into one of their holes, but that doesn’t guarantee that the gopher will actually get scared and leave.
Surface decoys, such as foxes, usually work with pests, but this is not as effective with gophers. If a gopher gets scared of a predator – it runs to its burrow – it’s a vicious circle.
An effective way to scare a gopher out of its burrow is by flooding it – all animals can drown, and if the gopher doesn’t leave the burrow, it’ll face its demise.
It’s unlikely that the gopher will return to a burrow that was once flooded.
Fencing might just be the most effective way of keeping gophers out of your yard – they might be proficient climbers and great diggers, but they can’t bite through metal.
Installing a metal fence and setting it up at least two feet into the ground will ensure that gophers can’t simply dig a tunnel under the fence to reach your yard.
Use Catch and Release Traps
Trapping is another great solution for getting rid of gophers. While there are lethal traps, we recommend using traps that catch them alive and then simply releasing them.
Before we move on to this method, something has to be pointed out. Releasing animals into the wild isn’t always legal – it’s actually a criminal activity in some places. That’s why we recommend calling local Animal Control to help.
Not only will they know what to do with the animal, but they might have traps ready for you to use. If not, feel free to buy a trap yourself and install it (following the manufacturer’s instructions).
Traps are usually set up at the burrow entrance and they have to be covered so that other animals don’t accidentally activate them.
After catching the gopher in your yard, you can hand it over to Animal Control or contact the local hunting association – they’ll know what to do with it.
How to Trap Gophers in Your Yard
Up until this point, it might seem like it’s all doom and gloom. Gophers are burrowing animals that can’t be eradicated with methods that work on other pests.
However, there are things you should be positive about. Firstly, gophers are solitary animals – if there’s a gopher in your yard, there’s only one gopher, not a colony. Secondly, they’re not impervious to traps – when they come out of their hole they can easily be lured.
As we mentioned earlier, most gopher traps are lethal. If you try hard enough, you’ll surely find catch-and-release traps in your local gardening store, but lethal traps have proven to be more effective.
Type of Trap
Most lethal traps are pincer traps with two prongs that kill the gopher instantly – they cause a quick, humane death. Once the gopher activates the trigger – usually a wire or a pressure pad – the prongs stab the gopher.
There are also choker traps, but their efficiency is yet to be tested.
There is actually no bait for gophers. Omnivores and carnivores are easier to attract to traps because meat lets off a powerful scent that’s impossible to ignore.
Gophers mostly feed on vegetable roots, which can’t be compared to meat when it comes to scent. The general idea behind the traps is that the gopher will simply wander into one, thinking it’s part of its tunnel.
Keep in mind that gophers don’t see well (especially below the ground) and that they’re not very intelligent animals. It doesn’t take a lot to get them inside the trap.
How to Set a Trap
Setting traps for gophers is fairly easy and straightforward. The trap needs to be set above the main tunnel – gophers have more than a single tunnel. You need to locate the main tunnel with a probe.
A probe can be just a very long screwdriver or a thin, metal rod.
Simply probe around the mound we described earlier in the article and wait for the soil to start falling in. Once that happens, you’ll know you poked the tunnel.
Once you find the tunnel, open it up with a shovel and set the trap according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The trap will most likely need to be set up vertically, so they’ll be somewhat sticking out of the ground when you’re done.
When To Call in the Pest Control Experts
You should call in the experts once you tried out all the methods we explained in this article. If you’re sure that a gopher is somehow getting around your fences and you can’t kill it or catch it with a trap, it’s time to call the experts.
Not only do they have a plethora of experience with pest management, but they have access to an arsenal you don’t know how to use.
Baiting is a method used with many pests – rats, for example – where pest control experts set attractive bait that the animals will eat. What the animals don’t know, however, is that the bait is poisonous and they die shortly after.
Bait for gophers exists and it works if it’s placed in the main tunnel below the ground. Grain treated with strychnine is usually used for gophers. The animal dies after a single feeding.
Keep in mind that in some areas, you can buy bait and do this on your own.
We already mentioned water as an effective solution how to get rid of gophers in your yard. Well, except for flooding, animals are also afraid of fire, and fumigating might be effective in that manner.
Unlike other burrowing animals, though, gophers seal up their burrow once they smell smoke, so they’re not in danger of choking like other animals would be.
If the pest control experts use toxic fumes, such as aluminum phosphide, the gopher could be killed quickly, before it can block the tunnel.
This is an effective solution that your pest control experts will know when to use.
How to Prevent Gophers from Invading Your Yard
Prevention is the best treatment when it comes to gophers. We understand that they’re tricky animals to handle, but there are a few things you can do.
Firstly, we already mentioned fencing – establishing a perimeter should definitely be put on your to-do list. However, you can take this a step further.
Want to protect your vegetables? Plant them in a garden bed! A raised garden bed can have a mesh built on the bottom, preventing gophers from getting to the roots. Do this and your vegetables will be safe from gophers.
Secondly, while gophers are burrowing animals, they’ll likely walk into your yard (unless you have a fence). That means that they’ll be on the surface when they approach your yard and they’ll be able to smell the repelling plants we mentioned before.
Letting your dog into the yard would also be a smart thing to do – gophers won’t invade a yard with a predator in it.
Speaking of predators – there’s some success with people attracting barn owls to their yards specifically to kill gophers. If you don’t have a problem with a predator bird in your yard, give this a try.
FAQs Getting Rid of Gophers
What Are Signs of Gopher Damage?
Gophers are burrowing animals and when they dig into the ground, they leave a mound of fresh soil on the surface. This is an unmissable sign of a gopher in the yard. They’re also capable of destroying plenty of plants in very little time.
What Are Signs of Gopher Damage?
Unfortunately, chemical repellents have proven to be ineffective on gophers. You should resort to other methods.
Verdict: How to Get Rid of Gophers
The most effective methods for getting rid of gophers are trapping them and fencing them out. You can also flood the gopher out of the burrow, as it won’t return to a burrow that’s been flooded.
If those methods don’t work, you should call pest control – they will most likely try traps of their own, baiting, or fumigating the burrow to draw the chase the animal out.
Luckily, gophers are solitary animals, so you don’t have to worry about an entire family – rather just an individual. Since they can cause so much damage, it’s imperative to get rid of the gopher as soon as possible.
Utah State University – Pocket Gophers
University of California – Integrated Pest Management for Home Gardeners and Landscape Professionals