Gophers seem like adorable, furry, little creatures. That is, until they burrow into your backyard and take over. When your prized plants disappear into the ground and dirt mounds appear around your yard, there’s nothing cute about these destructive pests!
If you have a gopher problem that’s destroying your yard, you probably want to know how to get rid of them as fast as possible. I’m here to talk about everything you need to know, including when gophers are likely to come out of their hole, how to lure them out, and how to get rid of them for good!
- When Do Gophers Come Out of Their Hole?
- How Do You Lure A Gopher Out of Its Hole?
- Trapping Gophers
- How to Keep Gophers Out of Your Yard
- How Many Gophers Live in A Burrow?
- Final Thoughts on Handling a Gopher Problem in Your Yard
When Do Gophers Come Out of Their Hole?
Gophers, also known as pocket gophers, spend most of their time underground in their elaborate tunnel systems. They rarely venture out, and never more than a body’s length from their holes. That means it takes a little background information to understand when gophers come out of their hole.
Gophers can create massive systems of shallow and deeper tunnels that can reach up to 2,000 square feet. As you might imagine, they don’t need to spend much time on the surface; eating, nesting, and reproduction occur in the burrow’s deeper tunnels.
These furry pests prefer eating roots accessible from the shallower tunnels, though they do pop out of certain holes to pluck food from nearby vegetation. Gophers can be quite sneaky with their feed holes, too. You may not notice them at the base of your favorite plant until it’s missing significant foliage or gone altogether!
What Time of Day Are Gophers Most Active?
Like many rodents, gophers seem to prefer twilight and evening hours. However, unlike other rodents, gophers have no real qualms about burrowing during the day. Daytime activity is especially common during the spring when gophers can create up to three mounds per day!
Do Gophers Come Out of Their Holes at Night?
As noted above, gophers can be active at any time of day. It’s more about the time of year than the time of day. While gophers don’t hibernate, they aren’t as active during the seasons with extreme temperatures. According to Oklahoma State University, most gopher activity, including reproduction, occurs during the spring.
How Often Do Gophers Come Out of Their Holes?
It’s possible to catch a gopher out of their burrows but they can spend significant time underground in their tunnels. Gophers typically only leave their burrows to feed on plants around an opening, push dirt out of the tunnels, or move to a new space. That’s why you may never see a gopher outside its burrow unless you tempt it somehow.
How Do You Know If A Gopher Hole Is Active?
Gopher holes stand out in your yard because they typically have mounds of fresh dirt built up around them. As the furry pests dig out tunnels, they push the dirt onward the opening in a sort of crescent-moon shape. Even though gophers plug up holes in their tunnel systems, you can identify active gopher holes by the uniquely shaped mounds.
How Do You Lure A Gopher Out of Its Hole?
The good news about gophers is that they are solitary creatures that don’t like sharing with others of their species. Unfortunately, just one gopher can wreak havoc on your yard by crafting intricate tunnel systems and several mounds per month.
There are several ways to get rid of a gopher, depending on what you feel comfortable with. The important part is acting fast before that gopher attracts other pests hoping to prey on it.
Choosing to live-trap the gopher may be one of the most effective options, and it doesn’t require much effort on your part.
Simply pick up a gopher trap online or at a local home improvement or hardware store and set it up near the burrow.
By far and away the best buy gopher trap I’ve used in recent times is the Gopherhawk Trapping Set. This one requires no digging into your already shredded lawn!
It is super easy to set up, has a discrete design even for the timidest of gophers, and, can be reused. It even has a quick-release function which makes disposing of your catch a cinch.
Note that you can add bait, but it’s not necessary to trap the gopher. It helps to cover them with dirt and grass to block out the light and entice the gopher. Check the traps every day and move them to a new location if you don’t see results within two days.
Tip: Set more than one trap and start with locations near fresh digs.
Releasing Trapped Gophers
Once you catch the gopher in your live trap, it’s best to contact animal control to have an experienced professional handle the animal. However, if you have experience with wildlife and possess proper protective gear, you can transport the animal to another location for release.
Best Bait for Gophers
Though you don’t need to use bait to cause gophers to come out of their holes, you may want to try something to expedite the process. If you want to use bait to trap a gopher, try the following:
- Alfalfa greens
- Peanut butter
Don’t forget to put the bait near the back of the trap so that the gopher goes all the way in to trigger it. Otherwise, you may lose your bait and still come up empty.
You may see some chemical baits that aim to poison the gophers. These chemical agents can be effective because the gopher thinks it’s a treat and eats it. Be cautious when using poisonous baits because they can be toxic to other animals and even pose a threat to children.
Natural Gopher Repellents
For those homeowners who don’t want to deal with the critter face to face, it may be time to embrace repellents. This process can be time-consuming and require planning on your part, and it’s not always effective. In some cases, the gopher may just run to your neighbor’s yard for a while.
First, you need to determine an exit path that leads the gopher away from your yard. Consider the areas you hope to avoid, like those untouched by the pesky fur ball. Next, collect items that repel gophers, including:
- Fabric softener sheets
- Pet waste
- Peppermint oil
- Fish scraps
- Castor oil pellets
You may want to use a combination of the above. Pet waste and fish scraps work best when dropped into the tunnels as a sort of “blockade.”
Start your “attack” near your house by placing the offensive items around the immediate area. A day or two after you place the initial attack, move farther into the yard toward the chosen exit point. Continue this method until the gopher vacates the premises.
You could also introduce or attract predators to the area. Barn owls, cats, and dogs all eat pocket gophers. Adopt a pet to handle your gopher problem, or attract a barn owl by installing nest boxes around your property.
Flooding Gophers Out
Since gophers build tunnel systems and plug the holes, it allows you to flood them. While it’s a relatively simple idea, the process isn’t necessarily easy or effective.
Flooding gophers out involves running water through the tunnel system to force the gopher out. Of course, once you get the gopher out, what do you plan to do with it? Some people clobber it with a shovel or let the family dog handle it, but that creates more than one problem.
This method also leaves your yard susceptible to further damage because the water also loosens the soil, making it easier for gophers to expand their tunnels. Since the gopher can just head for higher ground and wait out the “flood,” you may make your problem worse.
Fumigating the tunnels functions much like flooding, but it uses noxious gases instead. The delivery method can vary from car or lawnmower exhaust to gas bombs dropped into the tunnel system.
This method is not recommended for inexperienced parties because you could accidentally inhale the gases. Even experienced pest removers don’t typically use this method because it’s dangerous and rarely effective. Most gophers are bright enough that they simply wall themselves off at the first sign of gas. The furry little pest just waits it out or tunnels elsewhere.
How Do You Know If the Gopher Left?
No matter what method you attempted, you need to know if the pesky critter actually abandoned the tunnels. The best way to check is to pop out the plug from one of the holes and keep an eye on it. If the hole remains unplugged for several days, then your furry guest is gone.
Of course, just ridding your yard of the gopher isn’t the end of your story. You need to fill in the tunnel system to prevent sinkholes in your yard and restore it to its former glory. Then you’ll know for sure you’ve identified when gophers come out of their hole.
How to Keep Gophers Out of Your Yard
Once you triumph over the capture of a gopher, you probably don’t want to go through that process ever again. Thankfully, there are some ways to prevent other gophers from taking up residence in your yard.
- Extending your fence below the surface is an excellent way to keep burrowers out. You can dig a trench and install hardware cloth or similar material to prevent burrowing without impacting your lawn or garden.
- Plant vegetation that gophers hate, like lavender, catmint, rosemary, strawberries, or salvia.
- Install an ultrasonic emitter at ground level. The vibrations repel rodents, including gophers, but won’t affect you. You can even get battery-powered or solar-powered models.
Embracing all three methods could be your optimal defense against gophers and other small garden pests. Aside from the initial installation, these three methods require limited to no maintenance.
How Many Gophers Live in A Burrow?
As noted, gophers live alone except for mating season and when females raise their litter. Female gophers keep their pups in the burrow for a few weeks before sending them packing and returning to a solitary life.
Though they leave home within a few weeks, a gopher doesn’t reach sexual maturity until its first birthday. Still, that means it doesn’t take long for these critters to start reproducing.
Female gophers can have litters ranging from one to six pups, and they can have anywhere from one to three litters per year. The number of pups and litters depends on the amount of water in the vicinity, with well-irrigated regions yielding more pups and more litters per year.
Why Do Gophers Dig So Many Holes?
To understand why gophers dig so many holes, it helps to know more about the typical tunnel structure. First, gophers create a runway between six and eighteen inches below ground. This runway connects everything else that the gopher constructs further down, up to six feet below the surface.
The complex tunnel system can be massive with several offshoots and side holes. Gophers incorporate waste holes, food storage, drainage tunnels, and a nesting area so that they can comfortably exist underground.
Gophers create offshoots from the runway to the surface to serve two purposes. Feed holes allow them to access vegetation above ground without venturing too far from the tunnel system. Other holes allow the gopher to expel excess soil and plug the holes for protection.
Additionally, gophers constantly alter their underground world by sealing off some areas to create new ones for different purposes. For example, gophers looking to mate may need new access points to locate a partner.
Why Do Gophers Plug Their Hole?
Like other rodents, gophers have numerous predators, including snakes, skunks, and coyotes. By plugging up holes, the gopher keeps potential predators out and disguises their burrows.
Note that gophers aren’t the only critters to seal up their holes. That’s why gopher holes are sometimes mistaken for other types of burrows, especially moles. To know whether or not it’s actually a gopher hole, look for the seal off to the side of the horseshoe-shaped mound.
Final Thoughts on Handling a Gopher Problem in Your Yard
A single gopher seems so insignificant. After all, it’s just a small, furry rodent. Anybody who has ever dealt with a gopher in their yard can tell you that it’s not a pleasant experience. Aside from destroying your plants and causing sinkholes in your yard, gophers can damage underground systems, like water lines and cables.
If you suspect you have a gopher burrowing under your lawn, take action immediately because they can cause significant damage in a short time.