Gophers

dealing with gophers in the gardenGophers are undoubtedly one of the more frustrating critters to encounter on the garden or farm. Though quite adorable, these plump, beaver-like animals are typically just under a foot long with slick fur and exposed front teeth. They may burrow an area up to twenty feet long, bringing dirt up to the surface every few minutes. Eventually, they use their teeth to chew through even the toughest of roots and branches.

Unfortunately, there are few effective ways to control gopher populations. The best tips are early detection and prevention. Keep an eye out for mounds of dirt which indicate burrowing, and try to resolve the issue early in the season. Additionally, invest in garden additions which may encourage predatory species, like owls, or keep a cat or two around, as well.

Need to know…

  • Gophers chew through roots and branches
  • Look for mounds of dirt – a sign of burrowing

Dealing with a Gopher Problem

The first sign that your garden or farm has been invaded by a gopher – or several – is the appearance of mounds of dirt. However, these dirt mounds and the burrows that create them are far from the extent of the damage by these visitors. Gophers are known for being one of the more destructive pests that can afflict the garden, which is all the more reason why we recommend taking care of your gopher problem as early as possible!

Gophers have quite large, sharp teeth, which are the primary tools they utilize to chew through all sorts of vegetation. Gophers are big fans of leaves, roots, sticks, branches, and just about any fibrous material. There are even reports of gophers toppling trees just from gnawing through the trunk! The damaging teeth of the gopher are the main reason why it is considered such a destructive pest.

Types of Problems Caused:

  • Burrowing
  • Tunnels long distances, often across property lines
  • Gophers are usually a problem neighbors share
  • Chewing
  • Roots and Branches
  • Destroys vegetation of all types

Getting Rid of Gophers

One of the most commonly recommended ways to deal with a gopher problem on the farm (or garden) is to trap. This is an organic method, as you are not utilizing any chemicals that could contaminate your soil, water, or crops. If you do decide to trap, the method we recommend is cinch trapping, during the initial building phase of the gopher’s burrowing process. During this time period, the gopher will poke out of the hole periodically to push out more dirt. If you place a cinch trap down into the hole while the gopher is still building its burrow, you will catch the gopher during this time and the cinch trap will immediately – and humanely – break the gopher’s neck. If the gopher is not caught during the building period, you must dig up to thirty inches below the soil to locate the main tunnel and place an “in-line” trap.

If you do not prefer to trap and would rather relocate the gophers, know that this can be a laborious task, often completed only for the gophers to return shortly thereafter. Additionally, traps used for relocation must be constantly monitored because gophers may die if above-ground for too long.

Likely the most effective methods of gopher control are other animals. Installation of owl nesting boxes is highly useful as some owls are said to eat up to one thousand gophers every year! However, if you want to get the most coverage from your owls, install several nesting boxes a couple miles apart, as the owls tend to hunt in about a two-mile radius. Overlapping the coverage areas of a few boxes should keep your farm or garden covered.

Methods for Removal:

  • Trapping
    • Cinch: Install during “building” phase of burrowing
    • In-Line: More difficult; Must be in the main tunnel
  • Relocation
    • Traps can be dangerous and gophers may die (from exposure to above-ground conditions)
    • Gophers often return
    • Usually not a practical solution
  • Predatory animals
    • Owls: Install several nesting boxes; overlapping coverage
    • Cats

Even though we know how difficult gophers are, we encourage you to “just gopher it!” Every gardener and farmer has to encounter their fair share of pests, and with each experience, we can say we learned a little bit more. If you are still struggling with gophers or anything else on your garden or farm, please feel free to let us know! We’d love to see how we can help.
Happy Gardening!