Gopher Control Methods
Gopher traps are an effective method to control gophers especially in the fall and spring while gophers are actively building mounds. Traps should be set in two directions in the main tunnel or near the freshest mound. The traps can be baited with lettuce, carrots, apples, alfalfa, or peanut butter, but they are also effective without bait. Wire the traps to stakes above ground to make them easy to detect and remove. If a trap has not been visited by a gopher in 48 hours, move it to a new location within the burrow.
Fumigants can also be used to control gophers, however, it has been found to be less effective than a trap. Fumigants work by filling the burrow with smoke and eliminating the gopher. Begin by blocking all exits of the burrow with soil or sod clumps, then light the smoke bomb, and drop it into the main tunnel. After any method of control, make sure to periodically check the burrows for re-infestation.
Why are Gophers considered a Pest?
Gophers are voracious herbivores that will eat any plant beginning with the roots and then ingesting the top part of the plant if possible. While moles and voles only focus on the roots, gophers cause both plant damage and elimination. Gophers eat all types of plants including: grasses, shrubs, seedlings, crops, garden vegetables, ornamentals, vines, and even trees. Not only do gophers ruin plants, but they also chew through irrigation, sprinkler systems, and utility cables.
Gophers can dig a burrow system of 200 yards per year that can cover an area of 200 to 2,000 square feet. Their tunnels are generally 6 to 12 inches below the surface, but can go as deep as 6 feet where they nest. These burrow systems can weaken the foundation of homes and structures. Gophers occupying areas in canals and ditches can ruin the integrity of the banks which leads to failure of the retention system, resulting in disaster. While gophers create their tunnels, they also leave an exposed fan shaped mound at the openings of the burrow system. One gopher can create several mounds in a day. These mounds can damage mowing equipment and the aesthetic appearance of lawns and golf courses. The openings to gopher tunnels are dangerous for livestock and other animals since they can easily step in one and injure their leg.
Gophers tend to live alone; however up to 60 of them can occupy an acre of land. They live up to 3 years and produce 1 to 3 litters per year with 5 to 6 young per litter. There are 34 species of gopher with 13 living in the United States. Gophers are 5 to 17 inches in length with soft fur that ranges from black to brown to off-white. They have large front incisors and long front claws for digging. Gophers rely on their sense of touch as they have small eyes and ears. They have very sensitive whiskers, paws, and tail. Gophers do not hibernate and are active during the day. They live from sea level to 12,000 feet in a variety of soil conditions but will avoid wet, saturated soil and heavy clay. Gophers destroy most plants and are pests in agriculture, forestry, and to home owners.