How to Get Rid of Gophers in Your Yard & Garden: A Complete Guide
Last modified on: November 16, 2020
Your lawn and garden are your outdoor sanctuaries. Whether you’re grilling dinner, entertaining friends, or simply relaxing after a long day, your outdoor space should be a haven.
Unfortunately, the presence of even a few gophers is enough to transform that peaceful space into a nightmare. With their unsightly holes and the damage they do to plants, gophers can quickly wreak havoc on landscaping.
Fortunately, there are ways to get rid of gophers and reclaim your property. Here at Smith’s Pest Management, our team has helped thousands of San Francisco Bay Area residents deal with their gopher problems once and for all, so we know how to get rid of these pesky rodents.
In this post, we’ll share our top gopher control tips and help you understand which is best for you.
Let's dive in.
What are Gophers?
Gophers are small, furry rodents that grow to 5-14 inches in length and can weigh a pound or more. Like mice and voles, gophers are built to dig. They have external, fur-lined cheek pouches that extend to the shoulders and are used to store and transport food.
Their four large incisors grow throughout the gopher’s life and are perfect for chewing through tough, woody plants. To dig as efficiently as possible, gophers can close their lips behind those incisors to keep the dirt out of their mouths while moving quickly through the ground. Their small ears and eyes and short, powerful bodies travel efficiently through tunnels while their broad feet and sharp claws work like shovels to move soil.
Although they prefer to live in areas with loose, sandy soil, Gophers are found throughout North and Central America. When they move into an area, they create an extensive network of burrows and tunnels, where they live, breed, and store food.
How to identify Gopher Damage in Your Yard and Garden
It’s easy to tell where gophers live. As they dig tunnels, they push excess soil to the surface, which creates long mounds that are easily visible in a lawn or garden.
However, the presence of mounds alone isn’t enough to identify gophers since moles also make mounds. We discussed the difference between mole and gopher mounds in one of our previous articles, “How to Identify Gopher Damage in Your Yard.”
Here’s the easiest way to determine whether the mounds you’re seeing are the work of gophers or moles:
When gophers make a mound, they push the dirt out so it creates a fan pattern. Moles, on the other hand, create neat, conical mounds. Additionally, gophers plug the entry holes to their tunnels. If you look closely, you’ll probably be able to see the plugs sitting on the top of a mound.
Finally, gophers break up soil as they dig their tunnels, creating fine, sifted soil. Moles move soil in large clumps and only create a tunnel entrance every six feet or so, while gophers create a tight-knit group of tunnels and holes in close proximity to one another.
Gophers are active during the day, and they do not hibernate, so the presence of gophers in your yard or garden will be relatively easy to spot.
Why Do I Have Gophers in My Yard?
Humans aren’t the only ones who love a beautiful yard! Here are a few things that may be drawing gophers to your property:
- Food sources. Gophers need to eat, and they’ll set up shop anywhere they can find ample food sources. Gophers are herbivores, which means they only eat vegetation. They especially love the roots and tubers of plants but will occasionally resort to “grazing” the lawn for grass, clover, and other snacks.
- Soil composition. Because gophers love to excavate, they prefer to live in areas with loose, sandy soil that’s easy to move.
- Shelter. Gophers are a prey animal for many other animals, so they need plenty of protection to stay safe. They may build tunnels under bushes, along fence lines, or under trees.
Once you have a few gophers in your yard, the problem will snowball as the gophers reproduce. Female gophers have between one and three litters per year, with each litter containing five to six pups. The young stay at their mother’s side for a few weeks before going out on their own to build burrows and make tunnels.
With that in mind, it’s smart to address gopher infestations quickly - before they become hard to manage.
How to Deal With Gophers Humanely & Naturally
Wondering how to get rid of gophers without killing them? Fortunately, there are many options, including poison-free methods.
Here’s a breakdown of each:
If you’re interested in using poison-free methods in your yard and lawn, trapping is the most effective approach. While you can set out gopher traps all year long, they work best in the spring and fall since that’s when gophers are most active.
For best results, traps should be set in main tunnels and baited with carrots, lettuce, apples, or peanut butter. If a trap doesn’t catch a gopher within 48 hours, it should be moved to a new location.
Pros: Effective, humane
Cons: Time-consuming, require manual placement and replacement
Instead of trapping and removing gophers, exclusion fencing keeps them away from food sources. Since gophers like to feed on roots and tubers, installing exclusion fencing (made from fine metal mesh) can prevent pests from burrowing into vulnerable areas of your lawn or garden or pushing soil to the surface.
You can either place exclusion fencing around areas you want to protect (like the garden), dig a trench and line it, or lay the fencing beneath your lawn’s sod to deter burrowing. To successfully exclude gophers, the wire mesh should have openings of less than ½” x 1”.
Pros: Effective, affordable, humane, long-term solution
Cons: Difficult to install, requires significant modification to existing landscaping
There are plenty of humane, natural ways to deter gophers from entering your yard, and some of them rely on ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Repellents make an area unappealing to gophers and force them to go somewhere else. While many of them are organic, they can also be mechanical, electronic, or chemical.
Here are a few of the most common options:
Castor oil tastes terrible and has a laxative effect on gophers. Additionally, it has a strong smell, which discourages gophers from entering an area. For best results, place liquid castor oil in the area of your property you want to protect and around the entrance to gopher tunnels.
Pros: Affordable, humane, non-invasive
Cons: Time-consuming, requires seasonal re-application
Ultrasonic repellents create high-pitched sound waves and send them down into the ground. While people can’t hear these sounds, the constant noise is bothersome to gophers and will make them move somewhere else rapidly.
Pros: Non-invasive, affordable, effective, humane, low-profile, long-term solution
Cons: Ultrasonic repellents encourage gophers to leave their burrows, which means they may move to another area of your landscaping unless you’ve taken adequate precautions
You can place all sorts of natural deterrents around your property to repel gophers. Growing plants with strong smells such as sage, daffodils, iris, thyme, and geranium will repel them, for example, as will placing fish oil, peppermint oil, coffee grounds, or tabasco sauce on the ground near gopher tunnels.
Pros: Humane, eco-friendly, safe for kids and pets
Cons: Requires frequent re-application
Conventional Methods to Get Rid of Gophers
If you’d like to take a stronger approach to getting rid of gophers, there are more conventional methods that can make short work of colonies. Please note that Smith’s does not recommend these methods, and tries to take a humane approach whenever possible.
While some traps confine and contain live gophers, others kill them immediately. These traps are an effective way to eradicate gophers, although we do not recommend this method because it is not humane and there are other methods that are just as effective - like no- kill traps.
Pros: Effective, rapid solution
Cons: May not be appealing to some people, inhumane, and requires disposal of dead animals
Poisonous gopher bait looks and smells like a tasty treat to gophers. When they consume the substance, though, it kills them quickly. While baits are effective, they require cautious application.
These potions are a potential hazard to pets and kids and are even outlawed in some places. California, for example, the rodenticide strychnine is legal but must be placed underground - never at lawn-level. Learn more about rodenticide laws in California here.
Pros: Effective, fast-acting
Cons: Highly toxic, potential danger for kids, pets, and other non-pest animals, inhumane, dangerous to the environment, can be expensive
How to Get Rid of Gophers Under the House
Gophers love a beautiful yard, but they’re also happy to tunnel under the house. And since a single gopher burrow can extend 200-2,000 square feet and contain 200 yards of tunnels, even a few gophers under the home can compromise the building’s structural integrity and create dangerous sinkholes.
If you have gophers under your home, no-kill traps are the most effective solution. However, implementing this method can be risky and requires the help of a skilled pest management company like Smith’s.
Because of the hard-to-reach location of gopher burrows under the house, holistic methods like ultrasonic deterrents and peppermint oil are typically ineffective.
How do Professionals Get Rid of Gophers?
Depending on the severity of the gopher infestation, a professional pest management company like Smith’s will offer a mixture of no-kill methods and conventional options, including the following:
- Trapping. Smiths’ trained pest control experts will locate gopher tunnels, expose a small portion of them, and place professional-grade, stainless steel traps inside the tunnel. We’ll cover the trap, mark it with a flag, and return in a few days to remove gophers and re-set traps.
- Carbon monoxide gopher removal. If trapping gophers is a concern, our trained techs can inject carbon monoxide into the gopher holes. This method satisfies Healthy Schools Act requirements and is an excellent solution for daycare centers and schools.
- Annual gopher removal. Since gopher infestation can be a recurring problem, Smith’s also offers a yearly gopher removal program, within which a technical services the property every month, and adjusting the gopher removal approach accordingly to ensure your yard stays beautiful and gopher-free.
Dealing with Gophers in the San Francisco Bay Area? We’re Here to Help!
Nobody wants to deal with a destructive, frustrating gopher infestation. Fortunately, Smith’s Pest Management is here for you. Our team helps residential and commercial properties in Northern California resolve gopher infestations once and for all and reclaim their outdoor spaces. We also work with parks and large facilities to eradicate gophers in an eco-conscious way.
Ready to learn more about our services? Contact us now.
Author Bio: Zach Smith
Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 10+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.
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