Gophers love to make a dramatic entrance, especially when digging their tunnel openings right in your backyard. Your mission is to show them the exit — or at least the way to a neighbor’s lawn. We’ve pulled together the best solutions on how to get rid of gophers (and their unsightly mounds) in your lawn.
What Does Gopher Damage Look Like?
A clear sign of a gopher family damaging your land is mounds of dirt shaped like crescent moons or horseshoes. Next to the mound, you’ll find a plugged hole. Gophers will stop at nothing to get a nibble of your plants, damage your irrigation system, and build their tunnel fortress underneath your landscape. How’s that for dramatic?
How to Get Rid of Gophers in the Lawn
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 harm your plants’ roots. To avoid this damage, it’s time to get rid of gophers in your lawn.
Trapping is an effective and nontoxic gopher control method for homeowners who prefer a humane approach. The best time to trap is in the fall and spring. Common live trap types include Victor Black Box, Macabee, Gophinator, and Cinch.
The key to setting these gopher traps is finding the main runway of a tunnel, which will be near a fresh mound.
- Find a fresh gopher mound and probe for burrows.
- Using a wooden dowel or something similar, probe around the hole.
- You’ll have discovered the runway when your probe sinks 4 to 12 inches into the ground.
- Wear leather gloves and stake down two traps into the tunnel facing each other.
Pro Tip: If you do not catch a gopher within two to three days, move the trap to a different tunnel. You’ll have trapped your gopher(s) when no new mounds appear.
This control method is a very effective way to kill gophers 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 gopher baits, as this is when their food source is low.
- Probe for the main gopher tunnel (as above).
- Apply bait to the main runway tunnel.
- Plug the burrow holes after application.
Pro Tip: Check the area periodically for two weeks after initial treatment and remove any deceased gopher(s). You’ll know you’ve cleared the infestation when you stop finding new mounds.
Underground fencing may not remove the gophers from your land, but the wire mesh can help deter them from your vegetable garden, plants, and flower beds.
- Bury hardware 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, but remember to leave enough room for the roots to grow.
Pro Tip: 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.
Flooding gopher holes may force the gophers out of their burrows and expose them to predators like hunting dogs.
Fumigation may seem like the perfect gopher exit strategy, but this method of gopher control doesn’t stand up against solutions like trapping and baiting.
Why? Fumigation isn’t very useful on gophers, because these pests are pros when it comes to sealing up their burrows for protection.
Attracting barn owls to control your gophers is a natural solution, but it 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.
Bottom line: Barn owls for gopher control is often an unreliable solution.
Household Remedies for Gophers
Household and DIY remedies to get rid of other pests often are effective, environmentally safe, and save quite a few bucks. That’s not the case with gophers, though.
According to the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources Program, popular household remedies such as gopher purge, mothballs, castor bean, and garlic haven’t been shown to repel gophers from an area.
Vibrating stakes, ultrasonic devices, wind-powered pinwheels, and planting chewing gum or laxatives in burrows also are not recommended for gopher removal.
While some devices claim to frighten pocket gophers, these pests don’t scare easily. Their resistance is likely due to their exposure to noise and vibration from sprinklers and lawnmowers.
According to the University of California program and the Utah State University Extension, there are no effective repellents available to protect plants from gophers.
What’s Digging up My Yard?
First, make sure gophers, not other critters, are tearing up your green carpet. Gophers can be easily confused with moles, voles, and groundhogs. It’s critical to know what critter you’re up against to find the most effective pest control solution.
Depending on the species, gophers are 6 to 10 inches long with short, hairless tails. These rodents also have large yellowish-brown front teeth called incisors that protrude from their mouths when closed.
Gophers are burrowing rodents with powerful front paws that are often pink. They are called pocket gophers because they have external cheek pouches that allow them to carry food and nesting materials.
Moles are meat-eaters and love to snack on insects, earthworms, and grubs. These little critters have blackish fur and are 4 to 7 inches in length with small, paddle-like feet. Moles have an elongated snout and head, beady eyes, and no visible ears.
Mole mounds are circular, volcano-shaped, and have a plug in the middle that is not distinct. Unlike gophers, moles have feeding burrows right beneath the surface, making a raised path on your land.
Voles, unlike moles, are vegetarians. They have short tails, small round bodies, little eyes, and partially visible ears, making them easily mistaken for field mice. Voles are 5 to 8 inches long and are grayish-brown.
Voles’ exit holes are the shape of small golf balls and lead out from previous mole tunnels.
Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, tend to have white teeth that sit inside their mouths when closed (unlike gopher teeth). Groundhogs have dark brown or black feet and thick, furry tails.
The most significant difference between a gopher and a groundhog is size. A groundhog can weigh more than 10 pounds, while a gopher tends to be under 2 pounds.
FAQ About How to Get Rid of Gophers
Food, glorious food. Gophers like to eat and they’ll build their homes anywhere that’s close to a food source. They’re herbivores and eat tubers, acorns, grass, and clover.
Gophers usually emerge in the evening hours or after the sunsets. They are active at all hours of the day and do not hibernate during the winter.
To get rid of gophers, try the following methods:
• Poison baits
• Underground fencing
• Flooding their burrows
• Barn owls
Their burrows are anywhere between 4 to 12 inches underground and about 2.5 to 3.5 inches in diameter. Gophers’ highly advanced burrow system may contain more than 500 tunnels and cover up to 2,000 square feet (yikes!). They keep their food storage chamber hidden away 6 feet beneath the surface.
According to the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources Program, popular household remedies such as gopher purge, mothballs, castor oil, and garlic haven’t been shown to repel gophers from an area.
When to Call a Professional
When it comes to calling your local pest control operator, we say, “go-pher it!”
If you have a persistent family of gophers, you may need to call an exterminator. A pest control professional near you has the tools and experience to show your burrowing friends the exit.
Main image credit: Chuck Abbe / Flickr / CC by 2.0