How to Get Rid Of Gophers

48 min read| Updated for November, 2019

These subterranean dwellers, sometimes called pocket gophers, often go unnoticed by homeowners. But the damage gophers cause by eating plant roots, leaving unattractive dirt mounds in lawns, and chewing up water and electrical lines is hard to miss. If you’ve encountered any of these issues on your property, it’s worth learning about these rodents and how to remove them from your yard.

48 min read| Updated for November, 2019

TRACKS
HABITAT
Woodland and grass prairies and from coastal to mountainous regions in their burrows.
SOUNDS
High-pitched squeaks, but overall are generally quiet.
SIZE
6.2″
DIET
Plants and bulbs.

Gopher Sounds

More than anything from gophers, is you’ll hear them gnawing and scratching. They do emit random high-pitched squeaks, but overall are generally quiet.

Identifying Animal Sounds

Gopher Tracks

Classified as a ‘rodent’, gophers have four toes on their front paws and five toes on their hind. Their hind tracks are slighter larger than the front and they tend to scurry-hop, which places their back tracks close to the front tracks, leaving a wide gap between each set.

Identifying Animal Tracks

Gopher Poop

Gophers leave small, tapered pellets a little over an inch long, with a greenish-brown hue, a putty like texture and no strong smell.

Identifying Animal Poop

Identify


Identifying gophers by sight is difficult since they rarely emerge from their underground burrows. For this reason, it’s important to be able to recognize gophers both by their appearance and by the issues they cause.

Physical Characteristics

Gophers are similar to several other rodents in size and appearance, although you can tell them apart by a few distinguishing features.

Color

Gophers come in a range of colors, from dark brown to almost white, sometimes with lighter underbellies and faces.

Teeth

Their long incisors are always exposed, and the mouth seals behind the teeth so that gophers don’t ingest dirt when burrowing.

Size

Gopher size can vary significantly depending on species and sex; they are typically 5-14 inches in length and two ounces to one pound in weight.

Ears and eyes

Gophers have small eyes and ears since their other senses are more useful to them underground.

Tail

Gophers use their highly sensitive, hairless tails to feel their way through tunnels when moving backward through their narrow burrows.

Cheeks

Gophers have large, fur-lined cheek pouches that allow them to carry food, which is how the name pocket gopher came to be.

Legs

Gophers’ limbs are small and clawed, making them ideal for digging.

Behavior

Gophers prefer to live alone and are territorial and aggressive when confronted. Here are a few other things to know about their behavior before you attempt to remove them.

  • Can be active at all hours of the day
  • Solitary except when mating or rearing their young
  • Food caches and nesting burrows can be as deep as six feetv
  • Feeding burrows are typically much closer to the surface
  • Always plug their feeding holes when not in use
  • May occasionally venture above ground to eat plants but stay close to the burrow
  • Strict herbivores that consume insects like some other rodents
  • Do not hibernate or enter torpor in winter; stays active all year

Habitat

Gophers are highly adaptable and can make a home in a number of different landscapes. In general, though, they prefer soil that meets these requirements.

  • Not extremely rocky, although some rocks are permissible
  • Soil is dense enough to support burrow structures without collapsing
  • Soil is aerated enough so they can breathe underground for long periods
  • Allows them to reach a comfortable temperature by either burrowing closer to the surface or deeper underground
  • Can be as plentiful as 60 animals per acre, depending on water and food sources

Geography

Gophers can be found throughout much of the Western hemisphere. The roughly 35 different species of gopher rarely overlap in one location.

  • More common in the Western United States, although a few are found in the Southeast
  • Range from Canada to South America
  • Similar in behavior across species and climates, although they can vary significantly in size

Life Cycle

Gophers mate only once or twice a year, and this is the only time the independent creatures share each other’s space.

  • Usually mate in spring or summer
  • Litters consist of two to six offspring
  • Gestation period is about 19 days
  • Typically stay with mother for two to three months before starting their own burrows

Treating Your Property For Gophers

For those who don’t want to try trapping, there are many alternative treatment options. Most come in the form of granular repellents and spray repellents, although they do require a hose to spread the product through gopher tunnel systems. Others include sound repellents, which create sounds that can scare gophers away without bothering the humans around them. Here are some products that may help you in your fight against gophers.

Sweeney's Mole & Gopher Repellent, 10 lb
Sweeney's Mole & Gopher Repellent 10lb Protect your lawn from moles, gophers, voles, armadillos and other burrowing animals with this powerful, all-natural repellent
$27.99

DIY Treatments

Homemade gopher repellents can be a great way to save money and experiment to figure out what works. Here are a few ideas that homeowners have tried and recommended.

Garlic

Like other rodents, gophers dislike the smell and taste of garlic. Try planting some in your garden or mixing up a garlic solution that you can spray directly into mole tunnels.

Castor oil

Castor oil comes from castor beans and is a natural gopher repellent thanks to its unpleasant smell. Try placing the beans themselves, or a solution of castor oil and soap, directly into the gophers’ tunnels. Just make sure to keep any excess solution away from children and pets, since castor oil is poisonous.

Hot spices

You may have a gopher repellent right in your spice rack. Gophers despise spices like chili pepper and cayenne. Try adding them to water or mix them in with the castor oil solution to make it even more powerful.

Pet waste

Pet droppings may help scare off gophers who’ve already taken up residence in your yard. Gophers have an excellent sense of smell and can detect the scent of predator droppings from a far distance.

Gopher Problem?

Find a Local Wildlife
Expert Near You

 

Find a Local Experts

Gophers create irregular-shaped or fan-shaped dirt mounds that have a dirt “plug” in the center that they use to enter and exit when eating.

Common Species

Because gophers are solitary creatures with a low population density, many species have developed over the years. Since they’re all similar in appearance—and importantly, the damage they cause—it’s less important to know the individual species and more important to be able to tell them apart from other rodents.

Gophers vs. moles

Since gophers and moles live underground and make similar dirt mounds, they’re easy to get confused. But these rodents are not as interchangeable as they first appear. Knowing the difference can help you be better equipped to protect your property.

Mounds

Gophers create irregular-shaped or fan-shaped dirt mounds that have a dirt “plug” in the center that they use to enter and exit when eating. Often you can tell that the plants around the mound have been consumed. Moles, on the other hand, create round mounds that do not have a plug.

Diet

Gophers eat all and any type of plants, so you will know them by the root damage or the damage/disappearance of your plants. Moles, on the other hand, are part of the shrew family and eat only insects.

Burrows

Gopher burrows are deep and not visible from above ground. Whereas mole burrows are often close to the surface and may look like a raised ridge of dirt, often along a building or fence.

Appearance

As mentioned, gophers have long incisors that are always exposed. Moles have large, spade-like paws and a snout with no visible teeth. Moles dig more with their paws than their teeth and are typically darker in color than gophers.

Damage

Gophers may eat the roots out from under trees or even chew through plumbing lines or buried electrical wires. The damage caused by moles is often just cosmetic, although they can sometimes cause foundation problems when they burrow under homes.

Unfortunately, gophers can also damage irrigation these systems by chewing through pipes or diverting water with their burrows.

Common Locations

Gophers are resourceful creatures who can live anywhere there’s significant plant life and adequate soil and water. They may be drawn specifically to areas where plants have tubers or robust underground root structures.

Why They’re There

If you’ve spotted gophers around your home, it’s helpful to know what’s making your property so appealing to them. Here are a few features gophers may look for when deciding on a new home.

Water

Gophers often have a higher population density in areas that are irrigated and provide them easy access to water. Gophers in these areas may even reproduce more often. Unfortunately, gophers can also damage irrigation these systems by chewing through pipes or diverting water with their burrows. Your land may be at higher risk for gophers if it features an irrigation system.

Food

Gophers relish tubers, like potatoes and carrots, which they can easily access without even leaving their burrows. The same goes for roots or bulbs. However, gophers will occasionally venture to the surface if they smell a particularly delicious herbaceous plant or shrub. Their favorites include alfalfa and dandelions.

Soil

Gophers adapt well to different soil types, but they avoid areas that are too sandy or too wet since the dirt will not support their burrows. If you have a well-aerated lawn with good drainage, you may be at risk for gophers.

Gopher Sounds

More than anything from gophers, is you’ll hear them gnawing and scratching. They do emit random high-pitched squeaks, but overall are generally quiet.

Identifying Animal Sounds

Gopher Tracks

Classified as a ‘rodent’, gophers have four toes on their front paws and five toes on their hind. Their hind tracks are slighter larger than the front and they tend to scurry-hop, which places their back tracks close to the front tracks, leaving a wide gap between each set.

Identifying Animal Tracks

Gopher Poop

Gophers leave small, tapered pellets a little over an inch long, with a greenish-brown hue, a putty like texture and no strong smell.

Identifying Animal Poop

Inspect


Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not causing problems. Gophers often don’t make their presence known until they’ve already begun destroying gardens, harming pipes, and causing unattractive mounds in lawns. Though they can be trickier to eliminate than some other rodents, it’s possible with the right approach.

Should I Relocate This Animal?

Despite their bad reputation, gophers can also be a helpful part of the ecosystem. What’s more, removing them can be a time-intensive process that requires multiple attempts. Here are a few things to consider before removing gophers from your yard.

Risk of disease or injury

Handling a gopher—even indirectly—can put you at risk of sustaining bite wounds or exposing yourself to disease, although you can minimize these dangers with the right equipment.

Cost

Relocating gophers will likely require either purchasing new tools or hiring a professional to help, both of which could become expensive.

Ecological benefits

It may come as a surprise, but gophers can be a helpful partner in creating rich soil in your yard and garden. Their burrowing aerates the soil, and their feeding habits help plants decompose faster, which helps fertilize your land. Make sure you weigh the potential cost of removing gophers before taking action.

Time

Since gophers rarely surface from their underground burrows, it may take a while to trap one. They also tend to have several emergency exits, which may make it more difficult for non-professionals to catch them.

Treating Your Property For Gophers

For those who don’t want to try trapping, there are many alternative treatment options. Most come in the form of granular repellents and spray repellents, although they do require a hose to spread the product through gopher tunnel systems. Others include sound repellents, which create sounds that can scare gophers away without bothering the humans around them. Here are some products that may help you in your fight against gophers.

Sweeney's Mole & Gopher Repellent, 10 lb
Sweeney's Mole & Gopher Repellent 10lb Protect your lawn from moles, gophers, voles, armadillos and other burrowing animals with this powerful, all-natural repellent
$27.99

DIY Treatments

Homemade gopher repellents can be a great way to save money and experiment to figure out what works. Here are a few ideas that homeowners have tried and recommended.

Garlic

Like other rodents, gophers dislike the smell and taste of garlic. Try planting some in your garden or mixing up a garlic solution that you can spray directly into mole tunnels.

Castor oil

Castor oil comes from castor beans and is a natural gopher repellent thanks to its unpleasant smell. Try placing the beans themselves, or a solution of castor oil and soap, directly into the gophers’ tunnels. Just make sure to keep any excess solution away from children and pets, since castor oil is poisonous.

Hot spices

You may have a gopher repellent right in your spice rack. Gophers despise spices like chili pepper and cayenne. Try adding them to water or mix them in with the castor oil solution to make it even more powerful.

Pet waste

Pet droppings may help scare off gophers who’ve already taken up residence in your yard. Gophers have an excellent sense of smell and can detect the scent of predator droppings from a far distance.

Gopher Problem?

Find a Local Wildlife
Expert Near You

 

Find a Local Experts

Gophers aren’t quite as susceptible to bait as other rodent varieties.

Gather The Tools You’ll Need

Leather gloves

Protects your hands if you come into contact with a gopher and also helps disguise your scent so you won’t scare the gopher away from the trap.

A live-catch trap

These traps are the most humane, and often the most effective way of permanently ridding yourself of gophers. Choose one that’s made of metal or sturdy plastic to prevent these avid chewers from escaping once trapped. Some experts recommend buying more than one to have betters odds of catching the gopher.

Shovel

Helps you bury the trap so it’s more effective.

Bait

Gophers aren’t quite as susceptible to bait as other rodent varieties, but there’s no harm in adding a little extra enticement. Try using lettuce, apples, peanut butter, or carrots.

Tarp

Protects your vehicle from animal waste during transport.

How-To Steps for DIY Removal

Catching a gopher can be an involved process. Unlike with some rodents, gopher-trapping sometimes demands digging into the actual tunnel chamber and placing the trap there. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to catch the gopher.

In-ground traps may be the most effective approach to a gopher infestation, but they also require significantly more work than above-ground traps.

For in-ground trapping

Step 1: Find the freshest mound in your yard. Try to be aware of the dirt mounds in your yard, so that if a new one pops up, you’ll be able to identify it.

Step 2: Locate the tunnel. You might expect the tunnel to be directly under the mound, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes gophers back-fill the exits when excavating, so you may have to dig deeper to reach the tunnel itself.

Step 3: Once you’ve found the tunnel, it’s time to position your trap. Experts recommend that you place the trap lengthwise along the gopher’s tunnel so that the animal will be forced to cross it to exit the tunnel.

Step 4: If you’ve successfully positioned your trap, bait it with food like a tuber or peanut butter.

Step 5: Cover the tunnel. Leaving the tunnel you’ve exposed will let in light and alert the gopher that something’s wrong.

Step 6: If you’re using a live-catch trap, quickly move the gopher to its new location and release it. Always obtain permission from the new landowner before releasing the animal.

For above-ground trapping

In-ground traps may be the most effective approach to a gopher infestation, but they also require significantly more work than above-ground traps. If you’d like to try using your trap above ground first, try this approach.

Step 1: Identify the freshest mound, which will have the highest likelihood of containing the gopher

Step 2: Bait the trap.

Step 3: Remove the plug, or earthen “door” to the mound, and place the trap in front of it. If the gopher does attempt to emerge from the tunnel to eat the bait, it will be caught.

Step 4: Set the trap. Some professionals recommend setting more traps wherever you see a fresh-looking mound.

Step 5: Carefully relocate and release.

For above-ground trapping

In-ground traps may be the most effective approach to a gopher infestation, but they also require significantly more work than above-ground traps. If you’d like to try using your trap above ground first, try this approach.

Step 1: Identify the freshest mound, which will have the highest likelihood of containing the gopher

Step 2: Bait the trap.

Step 3: Remove the plug, or earthen “door” to the mound, and place the trap in front of it. If the gopher does attempt to emerge from the tunnel to eat the bait, it will be caught.

Step 4: Set the trap. Some professionals recommend setting more traps wherever you see a fresh-looking mound.

Step 5: Carefully relocate and release.

Gophers can quickly wall themselves into a chamber until their tunnels air out, making gassing less effective than you might expect.

Methods to avoid

Flooding – This method makes sense at first glance, but is not an effective long-term solution. Gopher tunnels are long and complex, with many chambers, which makes it easy for them to escape rising water. In addition, the excess water can loosen soil which can make it easier for them to excavate new tunnels in the future.

Gasing – Some amateurs may attempt to “gas” the gophers by piping in exhaust from their vehicle or other poisonous fumes. Unfortunately, gophers can quickly wall themselves into a chamber until their tunnels air out, making it less effective than you might expect. You also run the risk of polluting your soil and harming plant life.

Risks Of Disease

Plague

This disease can be contracted from fleas carried by gophers or from handling a gopher directly. Once a person is infected, the disease will attack the immune system and cause symptoms like fever, chills, weakness, and headache. Though curable with antibiotics, plague can become deadly when left untreated.

Leptospirosis

This disease is spread through the urine of infected animals, often rodents. If a gopher or other infected rodent has accessed your food or water supply, you may be at risk of contracting this disease. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms like fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and jaundice.

Salmonellosis

Exposure to animal feces can cause this illness and can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress in humans. While unpleasant, this infection typically goes away on its own within a few days.

Gopher Sounds

More than anything from gophers, is you’ll hear them gnawing and scratching. They do emit random high-pitched squeaks, but overall are generally quiet.

Identifying Animal Sounds

Gopher Tracks

Classified as a ‘rodent’, gophers have four toes on their front paws and five toes on their hind. Their hind tracks are slighter larger than the front and they tend to scurry-hop, which places their back tracks close to the front tracks, leaving a wide gap between each set.

Identifying Animal Tracks

Gopher Poop

Gophers leave small, tapered pellets a little over an inch long, with a greenish-brown hue, a putty like texture and no strong smell.

Identifying Animal Poop

Prevent


Even if you’ve recently removed a gopher from your property, it’s still important to be vigilant about preventing future intruders. Existing tunnels in your yard can make it attractive to new gophers and other underground rodents who may be seeking. Here are a few ideas to make your yard less desirable to gophers.

Prevention Methods

  • Avoid planting gopher favorites, like alfalfa and dandelion, in your yard or garden
  • Consider applying a mulch border to your garden
  • Install a fence (just note that it will have to extend one or two feet below ground to have a chance at excluding gophers)
  • Try planting a natural gopher repellent like mole plant or castor oil plant (you may want to avoid this step if you have children or curious pets since these plants are poisonous)
  • Install a fake predator, like an owl statue
  • Try using an ultrasonic sound machine, which emits noises that annoy gophers but are imperceptible to the human ear
  • Scatter pet droppings around your yard to trick gophers into thinking predators are nearby
  • Create an unpleasant environment by using scents gophers don’t like, like fish, castor oil, hot spices, or mothballs.

Treating Your Property For Gophers

For those who don’t want to try trapping, there are many alternative treatment options. Most come in the form of granular repellents and spray repellents, although they do require a hose to spread the product through gopher tunnel systems. Others include sound repellents, which create sounds that can scare gophers away without bothering the humans around them. Here are some products that may help you in your fight against gophers.

DIY Treatments

Homemade gopher repellents can be a great way to save money and experiment to figure out what works. Here are a few ideas that homeowners have tried and recommended.

Garlic

Like other rodents, gophers dislike the smell and taste of garlic. Try planting some in your garden or mixing up a garlic solution that you can spray directly into mole tunnels.

Castor oil

Castor oil comes from castor beans and is a natural gopher repellent thanks to its unpleasant smell. Try placing the beans themselves, or a solution of castor oil and soap, directly into the gophers’ tunnels. Just make sure to keep any excess solution away from children and pets, since castor oil is poisonous.

Hot spices

You may have a gopher repellent right in your spice rack. Gophers despise spices like chili pepper and cayenne. Try adding them to water or mix them in with the castor oil solution to make it even more powerful.

Pet waste

Pet droppings may help scare off gophers who’ve already taken up residence in your yard. Gophers have an excellent sense of smell and can detect the scent of predator droppings from a far distance.

Gopher Problem?

Find a Local Wildlife
Expert Near You

 

Find a Local Experts

Gopher Sounds

More than anything from gophers, is you’ll hear them gnawing and scratching. They do emit random high-pitched squeaks, but overall are generally quiet.

Identifying Animal Sounds

Gopher Tracks

Classified as a ‘rodent’, gophers have four toes on their front paws and five toes on their hind. Their hind tracks are slighter larger than the front and they tend to scurry-hop, which places their back tracks close to the front tracks, leaving a wide gap between each set.

Identifying Animal Tracks

Gopher Poop

Gophers leave small, tapered pellets a little over an inch long, with a greenish-brown hue, a putty like texture and no strong smell.

Identifying Animal Poop

When to Call a Professional


If your efforts at repelling and trapping the gopher have failed, it’s time to call a professional. Using a professional can prevent exposure to bites and dangerous diseases. It can also save homeowners a great deal of time since gopher catching frequently requires a lot of trial and error. Even one gopher can cause a substantial amount of damage to your yard and garden if left up to its own devices, and so using an exterminator may be well worth the investment.

Sources

https://www.improvementscatalog.com/RoomForImprovements/get-rid-moles-using-home-remedies/
https://www.installitdirect.com/learn/how-to-get-rid-of-gophers/
https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/getting-rid-gophers
https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Pocket-Gophers
https://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_gophers.php
https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-to-get-rid-of-gophers/
https://www.britannica.com/animal/pocket-gopher
http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/PocketGophers.asp
http://www.thegopherguy.com/pages/pestid.html
https://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/direct.html

Treating Your Property For Gophers

For those who don’t want to try trapping, there are many alternative treatment options. Most come in the form of granular repellents and spray repellents, although they do require a hose to spread the product through gopher tunnel systems. Others include sound repellents, which create sounds that can scare gophers away without bothering the humans around them. Here are some products that may help you in your fight against gophers.

DIY Treatments

Homemade gopher repellents can be a great way to save money and experiment to figure out what works. Here are a few ideas that homeowners have tried and recommended.

Garlic

Like other rodents, gophers dislike the smell and taste of garlic. Try planting some in your garden or mixing up a garlic solution that you can spray directly into mole tunnels.

Castor oil

Castor oil comes from castor beans and is a natural gopher repellent thanks to its unpleasant smell. Try placing the beans themselves, or a solution of castor oil and soap, directly into the gophers’ tunnels. Just make sure to keep any excess solution away from children and pets, since castor oil is poisonous.

Hot spices

You may have a gopher repellent right in your spice rack. Gophers despise spices like chili pepper and cayenne. Try adding them to water or mix them in with the castor oil solution to make it even more powerful.

Pet waste

Pet droppings may help scare off gophers who’ve already taken up residence in your yard. Gophers have an excellent sense of smell and can detect the scent of predator droppings from a far distance.

Gopher Problem?

Find a Local Wildlife
Expert Near You

 

Find a Local Experts

Sources

https://www.crittercontrol.com/services/gopher/gopher-noises
https://www.backpacker.com/skills/how-to-recognize-and-identify-animal-tracks-on-the-trail#section_4

Gopher Sounds

More than anything from gophers, is you’ll hear them gnawing and scratching. They do emit random high-pitched squeaks, but overall are generally quiet.

Identifying Animal Sounds

Gopher Tracks

Classified as a ‘rodent’, gophers have four toes on their front paws and five toes on their hind. Their hind tracks are slighter larger than the front and they tend to scurry-hop, which places their back tracks close to the front tracks, leaving a wide gap between each set.

Identifying Animal Tracks

Gopher Poop

Gophers leave small, tapered pellets a little over an inch long, with a greenish-brown hue, a putty like texture and no strong smell.

Identifying Animal Poop

Gopher Problem?

Find a Local Wildlife
Expert Near You

 

Find a Local Experts