You’ll know as soon as gophers take up residence in your yard because you’ll see holes. Your plants will start dying. It won’t be unusual to see furry little heads pop up now and then, with what appears to be a diabolical grin. You might think gophers were cute if they were somewhere else, but right now all you want is to get rid of them. You would prefer not to put out poison because you don’t want to harm other creatures. Are there natural ways to get rid of gophers? Are there ways to just repel them, so you don’t have to kill them? Read on for our tips on how to get rid of gophers.
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Gophers Are a Problem
Gophers create many problems when they invade your property. They dig a complex network of moderately deep tunnels. Their tunnels serve to aerate the soil, which is beneficial in the wild.
Their tunnels widen into areas for:
- Storing food,
- Depositing waste matter.
Gophers are commendable for their ability to keep all the functions of daily life in separate areas.
Unfortunately, their home building efforts lead to a negative impact on your property.
They inflect damage by:
- Eating your vegetable garden.
- Destroying your flowers, trees, and other landscaping.
- Chewing holes in your watering system.
- Diverting your water and causing erosion.
- Leaving ugly dirt mounds all over.
Gophers can do an immense amount of damage in a very short time.
What Attracted to My Yard?
Gophers have eyes and they can see, although poorly. They navigate by sensing vibrations. They can sense vibrations that you probably aren’t aware of. For example, the water in your irrigation lines and spigots vibrate. That tells them there’s moist ground, which is easy for them to dig. It also means food is growing there. Even small battery-operated devices emit vibrations that gophers find attractive.
They also have a strong sense of smell. Gophers find their food primarily by smell as they’re digging. Tuberous plants provide one of their favorite foods. They also love the leafy plants, such as lettuce, in your vegetable garden. If you have a healthy lawn, it will have a root system that provides tasty meals to gophers.
When Will I See a Gopher Pop Out of A Hole?
Gophers prefer to stay underground as much as they can. If you see one pop up out of a hole, it’s usually just pushing dirt out. You may occasionally see one a few inches away from its hole, eating a plant. More often, they’ll just burrow under the plant and pull it into their hole to eat. In snowy climates, you might see a gopher that’s eating tree bark.
Other than during breeding season or when mothers are caring for their young, gophers live alone. You might see the young gophers leaving their birth nests to establish their own homes.
Gophers start reproducing themselves when they’re about a year old. In ideal environments, they can have as many as three litters a year. Otherwise, litters are limited to one a year. Litters average five or six pups. Gophers live for about three years.
Gophers do not hibernate, although you might not see them during adverse weather conditions. They are also active day and night.
How Do I Find Tunnels?
If you plan to trap or use poison bait to eradicate gophers, you need to locate their main tunnel. Using a gopher probe works better than blind luck. You can purchase a probe or make your own. It just needs to be strong enough to penetrate the soil.
Most people have success following this process:
- Look for a fresh mound of dirt.
- Examine the opening for a dirt plug.
- If it has a plug, it’s active; if not, move to another mound.
- Start probing about a foot away from the plugged opening.
- If your probe suddenly drops several inches, you’ve located the main burrow.
- If not, keep probing slightly closer or slightly further away.
Once you’ve located the main burrow, set your trap or bait.
How Can I Remove Gophers?
As with other pests, there is more than one way to get rid of gophers.
- Try to repel them.
- Construct barriers to prevent their entrance.
- Set traps.
- Use poison baits.
- Use fumigants, explosive devices, or gasses.
If your neighbors also have gophers, you’ll probably have to coordinate your efforts with them.
Factors that can influence your choice include:
- Whether your intent is to repel gophers or kill them.
- How large your property is.
- How much of your property is infested.
- If children or pets play in your yard.
You’ll also need to consider whether the eradication method you choose will harm birds or other wildlife in the area. You can learn about other ways of gopher control here.
What Are Some Good Removal Methods?
People often choose to kill gophers as a way of getting rid of them. Setting gopher traps is effective if you can find the main burrow. Experts recommend the Macabee trap as a good choice.
Types of traps include:
- Twisted-wire trap.
- Red box trap.
- Black hole trap.
- Black box trap.
- Death Clutch wire trap.
Regardless of which brand or kind of trap you purchase, buy at least two.
You won’t be able to determine from looking a tunnel which way the gopher is digging. That makes it necessary to set two traps, facing opposite directions. That way, no matter which way the gopher digs, it will run into a trap. If you can afford to do so, buy enough traps to set two in each gopher hole you can find. There’s more information on using gopher traps here.
If you choose to use poison, you need to understand that effective products contain strychnine. You cannot use poisons in locations where a child or pet can get into it. You will need to find gopher tunnels that are deep and use a funnel or bait applicator to pour in the bait.
Strychnine kills gophers with just one feeding. It also kills anything that eats the dead gopher. Because strychnine is so lethal, it’s marketed in fewer and fewer outlets, and you may have difficulty in finding it. This article has more information on how to kill gophers.
Traps are most effective in small yards, especially at the beginning of the gopher invasion. If you have a large area or if your yard is continually infested with gophers, then poison bait can be a better choice. It’s easier to use than setting multiple traps.
If you can’t buy strychnine in your area or prefer not to use it, look for gopher bait made with zinc phosphide. Like strychnine, it kills gophers with one feeding. However, it isn’t as toxic to the animals that eat the dead gophers as strychnine is. Chlorophacinone is another gopher poison. Gophers have to eat large amounts of it before they die.
Some homeowners use rat bait to kill gophers. That’s iffy at best. It has to be appealing enough to the gophers for them to eat it, which is usually isn’t, and they have to eat a lot of it. You’re better off to use products intended for gophers.
Because gophers and moles live underground, and they both destroy yards, homeowners often aren’t able to tell the difference between them. They do look different, but perhaps the easiest way to determine which is invading your property is to look at the mounds they leave.
Moles dig shallow tunnels that leave a raised ridge on your lawn. Their mounds are cone-shaped and look like tiny volcanoes to most homeowners. Gopher tunnels are deeper and not visible on the surface. A gopher mound is crescent or horseshoe shaped. Active gopher holes will also have a plug of loose dirt.
A mole is not a rodent. A gopher is a rodent. Because of their differences, repelling or eradicating either requires different methods. That’s why it’s important to know which pest you have.
You can purchase fumigants, gasses, and explosive devices designed to kill gophers. Explosives will kill the gophers immediately if correctly placed.
Fumes can kill the gophers directly or cut off their oxygen and suffocate them. Success with this method is limited, because the gopher’s superior sense of smell will detect any fumes before they can be lethal. Gophers are fast diggers, and they can seal off any tunnel before the fumes reach them.
Fumigants or gasses should be inserted into every gopher hole in your yard and all of them started at the same time. Miss a hole or start them intermittently, and the gophers win. The advantage of fumigants and gasses is that they are safer than traps, poisons, or explosions.
Once gophers invade your yard, it can be an unending task to get rid of them. The ones you kill will be replaced by others for as long as your yard provides a desirable habitat for them. You may have more success by making your property inhospitable to gophers. Combine that with repelling them for the best results.
Methods you can try include:
- Plant in raised beds.
- Install a layer of hardware cloth under flower beds.
- Place galvanized wire shields around individual plants.
- Bury fences underground and extend them a foot above ground.
- Plant a barrier of rhizomes.
You can also purchase a non-toxic solution that has an odor gophers find unpleasant. It repels them when it:s spread over your property.
Try growing plants that gophers dislike.
- Castor bean,
- Euphorbia lathyris (gopher spurge),
Local nurseries can advise you as to which plants will grow in your area and may know of indigenous varieties that repel pests.
Remove Without Killing
One of the best ways to remove gophers without killing them is by using live traps. You can then relocate the live gophers into the wild.
You can also use devices that make annoying noises or vibrations that disturb gophers.
Homeowners have also tried a variety of non-toxic home remedies to repel gophers.
These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Filling the gopher hole with used cat litter or dog feces.
- Placing dead fish or fish scraps in the gopher hole.
- Scattering coffee grounds around the gopher holes.
- Stuffing new fabric softener sheets in the holes.
- Spraying the area with a mixture of tabasco sauce, hot peppers, or chili pepper.
Anything you place in a gopher hole should be covered with a light layer of soil.
My Back Yard
You can eradicate gophers in your back yard in much the same way as you get rid of them anywhere else on your property. What makes back yards more of a problem is that’s the area in which children or pets most frequently play. Their activities can limit your choices.
Although certain vibrations attract gophers, in general they dislike noise. Some homeowners have used portable radios to their advantage. Simply turn on the radio, seal it in a plastic bag to protect it from moisture, and stick it in the gopher hole. Gophers apparently don’t like music.
You can also use wind chimes. Although the sound they make is pleasing to most people, gophers don’t care for it. They move to a quieter habitat.
You need to take steps to stop gophers as soon as you see the first mound or gopher hole. One gopher can devastate your lawn quickly, and others will soon follow. There can be up to 60 gophers living in one acre. Other pests can also occupy deserted gopher tunnels and burrows.
Using natural predators can help you get rid of gophers without destroying your lawn.
- Your cat or dog, if it’s a hunter.
You can talk to local wildlife experts about the best way to attract gopher predators and safety precautions you need to take.
It doesn’t take gophers long to dig tunnels and leave holes all over your yard. Not only are the results unsightly, but you can also potentially break your ankle or leg if you unwittingly step in a gopher hole. Although they are usually just destructive pests, gophers can and do bite humans. Their bites can transmit the viruses that cause meningitis, encephalitis, and plague. Gophers can be beneficial in the wild, but you need to know how to get rid of them if they invade your property.