Before starting any efforts to attain a gopher-free yard, make sure that the rodents burrowing in your lovely grass are, in fact, gophers. Also called pocket gophers, sometimes they can be mistaken for moles. They are burrowing animals that can cause unsightly holes and mounds in your yard.
Another undesirable trait is their tendency to destroy bulbs of plants, eat roots and pull down plants into their burrows to eat. You can tell you have gophers by their flat, fan-shaped hills, and gray or light brown fur. Moles make round, conical hills and have black or dark brown fur.
These methods will help you get rid of gophers yourself, but professional pest control companies also can use other methods like poisons, fumigation, and even gas explosives. These usually require licenses to use.
Flooding Gophers Out of the Yard
Flooding is a non-lethal way to get rid of gophers. Be careful, though: flooding tunnels that are close to or touching house or outbuilding foundations can cause water to seep in through the foundation and damage the building, or result in a basement leak.
Gopher tunnels can be hard to identify, since they are not usually visible from the surface, so you have to rely on getting the water down the visible holes by their mounds. To drive out gophers, you should flood the tunnels quickly and dramatically. Prepare a row of five-gallon buckets of water and get some helpers to pour them all down the gopher holes at the same time.
This should be done in late winter or early spring, before breeding season, and is most effective on new infestations of gophers rather than long-established burrows.
Fencing Prized Gardens Against Gophers
Creating barriers around prized plants or gardens is a worthwhile protection effort. Raised beds are the easiest to protect; simply nail wire mesh hardware cloth around the bottoms and sides of beds. When planting new trees, plant them inside a wire basket frame that will protect the new sapling’s roots.
Existing trees and gardens are more difficult to protect, but there are two methods. One is to dig a deep trench – at least two feet, and deeper if you can — on all sides of the garden or tree and fill it tightly with rocks. Another is to install underground gopher fencing, in the form of wire mesh hardware cloth. Dig a deep trench, bend the cloth at the bottom of the trench so it curves away from the tree or garden, and refill the trench, burying the cloth.
However, both of these may only be temporary protections, as gophers can dig as deep as they care to.
Trapping is the final method for getting rid of gophers in your yard. This often will result in killing the gophers, but it may be the only solution if other controls fail.
Traps designed specifically for gophers are available commercially. They should be placed right in the gopher hole, at the bottom of the hole. Make sure you set the trap in an active burrow, which you can find by using a gopher probe. Push the probe slowly down through the soil about 8 to 12 inches away from an existing mound, testing carefully in a circle until you hit the tunnel. You can tell where the burrow is because you will hit a pocket of no resistance, where the probe suddenly drops a few inches.
Solar Powered Gopher Repellent
Do these solar powered gopher repellers really work? According to this customer review at Clean Air Gardening, they do.
“Few months ago, I bought a couple of your sonic gopher chasers, out of sheer desperation, as I had tried everything else..from poisoning to shooting the critters and nothing worked. Nothing. These electronic sonic things did the trick…almost immediately…like two days, and after that not a sign of them…the ‘sonics’ are still in place, and chirping away every thirty seconds….they gonna stay there till they quit, then I’m coming back for more. Love these things.”
Want to learn more about getting rid of gophers?
Check out these Web sites chosen by us for more information on the subject.
The Washington State Fish & Wildlife Department has a guide to pocket gophers.
Trapping pocket gophers is detailed here by the University of California’s Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program.
Check out The Colorado State University Extension’s advice on gopher management.
Kim Slotterback-Hoyum is a Michigan-based freelance writer. She has been a proofreader, writer, reporter and editor at monthly, weekly and daily publications for five years. She has a Bachelor of Science in writing and minor in journalism from Northern Michigan University. Besides writing, her interests include gardening, traveling and reading.