When you see the holes dug into your lawn by a gopher, you’re likely going to be pretty eager to find a solution to your gopher problem! And trapping is one of the very best options for getting rid of a gopher.
Trapping a gopher isn’t hard to do once you know how to do it. You simply need to find the right trap, get some great bait, carefully place the trap in the gopher holes, and wait.
Gophers are tiny critters which will wreak havoc on your lawn and garden. And even though they do have some benefits you’ll probably want them out of your yard pretty quickly. Luckily there are quite a few ways to repel gophers for good.
What Is A Gopher?
Gophers are medium-sized rodents which live underground. They are often referred to as pocket gophers because they have fur-lined cheek pouches which stretch all the way back to their shoulders. They use these pouches to carry their food and the materials they need to build nests.
They typically weigh a pound and or less are only 7 – 12 inches long. Male gophers are usually slightly bigger than female gophers. Their fur is short and is generally dark brown – which closely matches the soil they live in. They have small eyes and ears and long whiskers and tail which they use to guide their movements underground since they can’t see very well. Their sharp claws and teeth also help them to dig their burrows.
Gophers are commonly found in North and Central America. They prefer areas with firm soil to maintain their tunnels and tend to avoid swampy and rocky terrain.
What Is The Best Bait For A Gopher?
When trying to catch a gopher there is some bait which will work better than others:
- Peanut butter
- Carrot Sticks
- Celery Sticks
Make sure the bait you use is as fresh as possible so it’s fragrant and alluring. These are all very desirable for gophers and should work well as bait but peanut butter is likely the most useful of them all because of its potent smell and ease of applying it to the trap.
Gopher Trapping – How To Trap
If you’ve decided that you’re going to trap your gopher yourself there are some important steps you need to take:
Get a Good Quality Gopher Trap. Check hunting or hardware stores, or look online to buy or rent a specific gopher trap. Traps meant for capturing other animals may be too big or too small and not trap a gopher effectively.
There are a few different types of gopher traps you can find. Some are used to catch and release, while others are meant to kill the gopher as soon as it enters the cage.
If you can get your hands on two gopher traps you can block both ends of the main gopher tunnel and catch the gopher faster.
Wash The Trap. You’ll want to make sure the gopher doesn’t smell human or another animal on their trap. That will only scare them away. Make sure you wear gloves when setting up the trap as well.
Set The Bait. Choose which fresh bait you’re going to use and carefully put it in the trap(s).
Set Up The Trap. Find the Gopher Hole(s) and carefully dig out the hole(s) to fit the size of the trap(s). If the holes seem deep you may want to tie a rope to the end of your trap so you can lower it in and lift it out easier.
Lower the trap(s) down the tunnel and try to have the trap(s) sitting as flat on the ground as possible.
Cover The Hole. Since you dug a larger hole there is now extra light shining into their tunnel. Since you don’t want the gopher to see the trap or be frightened by the light you should cover the hole over the top of the trap(s) with an old rug or piece of cardboard.
Wait A Day. Check your trap(s) after a day or so, especially if it’s a live trap, to see if the gopher has been caught. If more than a few days have gone by and you haven’t trapped your gopher yet, consider moving the trap(s) to sit in other holes which they may use more often.
Deal With The Gopher. If you’ve chosen a live trap you’ll now want to relocate the gopher elsewhere. Or call your local municipality to see if they have any ideas.
And if you have used a kill trap you’ll need to deal with disposing of the gopher.
Wash And Store The Trap. After using your trap and removing the gopher you’ll want to wash it very well and let it sit in the sun to dry before you return it or put it away.
How Do I Know If I Have A Gopher In My Yard?
If you see several mounds of dirt throughout your yard you likely have gophers! This is the most common sign.
If you suddenly notice some of your trees and bushes are dying – especially if it’s only on one side it could be because a gopher has snacked on the roots and caused the tree to slowly die.
How Do Gophers Build Their Tunnels?
Gophers build tunnels which are roughly 6 – 12 inches below the surface. They will continue to build several branches of tunnels. Wherever they end a tunnel is where you will find a mound of dirt.
They use their tunnels differently. Shallow tunnels are where they forage for their food, while their deep tunnels are where they sleep, eat, store their food, and go to the bathroom. Some tunnels can reach an amazingly large 6 feet deep!
It’s not at all uncommon for a gopher to build tunnel systems which are up to 2000 square feet.
What Encourages Gophers To Come Into A Yard?
It’s unfortunate that the nicer your yard the more likely you’ll have gophers! Gophers look for well maintained soil to create their tunnels and homes. This is why golf courses often have a problem with gophers.
Now, you’re not off the hook if you don’t have a well-maintained garden. Anywhere gophers can find insects to eat and moist dirt they will dig.
Do Gophers Hibernate?
Although you may not see gophers much in the wintertime it doesn’t mean they are hibernating. Gophers generally just dig deeper into the ground to stay warmer, but they are still quite active during the colder months. The food and materials they have brought into their tunnels will keep them going throughout the wintertime.
What Is The Life Cycle Of A Gopher?
Gophers live on average about 3 – 5 years. In some instances, gophers live up to 7 years in the wild, but this is rare.
How Fast Do Gophers Multiply?
Around age 1 gophers reach their sexual maturity and start to breed. Female gophers generally produce 1 or 2 litters every year, depending on the area they live in. Gophers who live in areas which have more irrigation have more litters, while dryer areas produce less. Each litter typically produces 5 or 6 babies. Gopher babies are referred to as pups. The mother gopher stays with their pups for a few weeks before she sends them out to build their own burrows.
What Kind Of Damage Can A Gopher Do?
Gophers can cause a surprising amount of damage to your yard.
Lawn Damage. You likely already know about all the holes gophers dig into lawns – not only ruining the lawn but creating a tripping hazard if you don’t know the dirt piles are there.
Plus, if the gophers dig a lot of tunnels too shallow into the ground, they can ruin the integrity of the lawn, causing it to sink. This will create dips and bumps in the lawn. And you’ll usually start to notice brown patches in the lawn where the gophers have damaged the roots of the grass. Plus, it’s not uncommon to start noticing patches of your lawn where the lawn is sparse – this is because gophers can pull some of the grass down through the soil to eat it if they aren’t finding enough food elsewhere.
Plant And Flower Damage. Gophers love eating certain types of plants and flowers and will be more than happy to snack on the ones they find in your garden. They’ll also take extra down into their burrows for their family and to store for later.
Gophers also dig and eat through roots of plants and trees in the ground which can cause them to start losing branches and rotting on one side.
Utility Lines. In some cases, gophers have disrupted underground utility lines by digging through them or causing dirt to cave in and damage them.
Are Gophers Territorial?
Gophers are quite territorial and will fight any other creatures who try to come into their tunnels or try to steal their food.
So, although gophers sometimes allow other gophers to live in their burrows for short periods during mating times, they are generally solitary creatures.
Do Gophers Eat Avocado Roots?
Gophers use their tunnels to eat the roots of many trees and plants. They especially love eating avocado roots because they are so small and tender.
When gophers eat avocado roots the plant will generally start to die on one side and cause some damage to the lower branches.
What Do Gophers Eat?
Gophers are herbivores. They eat grass, shrubs, flowers, trees, and the tree roots they find underground in their burrows. They also love finding vegetables which grow underground such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
Do Gophers Bite?
It’s quite rare you’ll actually encounter a gopher since they are solitary creatures who live underground.
However, if you or any other animal surprises a gopher or tries to get in the way of its food source, gophers will lash out and bite.
Are Gopher Bites Dangerous?
If you do happen to get bitten by a gopher it will likely swell, blister, and appear quite red and bruised. You should immediately wash the bite well with soap and water then apply a disinfectant. You should also seek medical treatment as well since gophers can carry some diseases, however, the risk of serious illness is low.
Can Gophers Have Rabies?
Gophers are capable of carrying rabies like any other mammals. However, since gophers are solitary creatures who prefer to remain underground it’s not common for them to carry rabies. Even if they do contract rabies it’s extremely rare for them to pass it along – especially to a human.
What Diseases Do Gophers Carry?
As just mentioned, it is possible for gophers to carry rabies. But the more common diseases gophers may carry include:
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM)
Do Gophers Pose Any Other Health Issues
Like all other animals – especially wild ones – gophers can carry quite a few unwanted pests in their fur which can be easily passed along to pets if they come into contact with them. Or even through the grass. Just some of these pests are:
Are Gophers Useful In Any Way?
Although gophers can do a lot of damage to your yard, they’re doing it a lot of good as well.
Their burrowing naturally tills and aerates the soil, which makes it healthier. Their fecal waste and some of the food scraps and plant and flower bits they bring into their tunnels provide healthy fertilizer to the soil.
What Eats Gophers?
Gophers are a part of the food chain as they are often hunted by these animals:
Do Mothballs Keep Gophers Away?
Mothballs are extremely strong-smelling and gophers will shy away, so yes mothballs will keep gophers away.
However, mothballs are generally composed of chemicals which can be dangerous if a pet or child finds them and licks them. And they can cause chemicals to seep into your garden, killing your flowers and poisoning your soil and anything you’re planning to grow in it.
How Do I Discourage Gophers From Coming Into My Yard?
There are a few different ways you can prevent gophers from choosing your yard to build their tunnels.
Plants. There are several plants which gophers strongly dislike. If you have a lot of these throughout your yard gophers may just stay away:
- Gopher spurge
Put Up A Fence. Fencing can help to keep gophers out of your yard – but you must remember that gophers love to dig. Raised garden beds are the easiest to keep gophers away from because you can build a small fence around them and curve the bottom in to keep the gophers out.
When you put up a fence around your lawn and the rest of the property you may have your work cut out for you. The fence doesn’t need to be very high however it must go underground at least two feet or gophers will simply dig underneath it.
Scatter Your Pet’s Droppings. Gophers like to steer clear from dogs and cats since they are bigger and considered a threat. So, if they smell signs of your pet – like their poop – they’ll likely find another yard to live in.
Simply put some of your pet’s poop in or near the gopher holes if you have seen them, or scattered around your yard if you only suspect you have a gopher lurking around.
Fish. If you happen to have some fish guts or other fish scraps put them around your garden to repel gophers, who hate the smell.
You may need to watch out, however, because while you will repel the gophers you may attract stray cats and other unwanted animals to your yard who love the smell of fish.
Dryer Sheets. Dryer sheets put off a smell gophers find unappealing. So, the next time you do laundry save the dryer sheet to bury in your garden.
Please be careful of this method as some dryer sheets put off chemicals which can harm your soil or your pets if they come into contact with them.
Essential Oils. Placing a few drops of strong scented essential oils on cotton balls and placing them around your yard will help to keep gophers away. They especially don’t like peppermint.
If you choose to use this remedy please be careful to keep children and pets away from these cotton balls as the scent can also be too strong and irritating for them, plus there is a chance of ingestion.
Spicy Scents. Much like essential oils, spicy scents are too overpowering for a gopher’s nose. You can make a mixture of tabasco or other hot sauce and hot water to sprinkle through your garden.
Coffee Grounds. Gophers find the scent of coffee way too strong and will avoid it. So, all you need to do every few days is sprinkle the grounds from your morning coffee around your yard – especially near any holes you may have seen.
The bonus is that coffee grounds add natural fertilizer to your soil.
Talk To Your Neighbors. Remember that gophers can build very large tunnel systems so it’s quite likely that your neighbors have a problem with gophers in their yard(s) as well. You’ll probably all need to work together to get rid of the gopher.
Can You Flood Gophers Out Of Their Holes?
Flooding the gopher tunnels with water is one way you’ll hear of to get gophers out of their homes – and out of your yard.
Prepare a bunch of large buckets of water and pour them into the holes all at the same time. This ensures the burrows all get flushed out quickly and effectively. This is best done just before the breeding season – in the late winter or early spring.
You do need to use caution if you plan to flood out the holes. You’ll need to use a lot of water, which can lead to damaging your lawn beyond repair. The water can also get into your home’s foundation which can cause serious damage to your structure, or cause your home to leak.
And, in most cases, you won’t use enough water to force the gopher to leave. You could just end up softening the water and making it easier for the gopher to dig more tunnels. Quite often even if the gopher does leave after you flush them out with water they’ll simply return after it’s dried out a bit.
Should You Use Gum To Get Rid Of Gophers
Gophers are attracted by the smell of fruit-flavored gum so by placing the gum in holes where you know gophers are, they will likely eat it. Gophers can’t digest gum, however, so the gum will actually kill them.
Is It Legal To Kill Gophers?
In many areas of the US, it is illegal to kill gophers. So, if you are looking to poison a gopher or use a trap and kill option, you’ll want to check with the rules for your area first to avoid any trouble.
How Do You Get Rid Of Gophers In Your Yard?
Once you have gophers digging tunnels in your yard it can be a tough job to make them leave. You can try some of the options mentioned above, but here are a few which will suss out your gopher from their hiding spot and move them along effectively.
Ultrasonic Repellents. These repellents send tiny shocks through the ground which will upset gophers. They will likely not bother to burrow, and if they already have, they will probably feel like they’re in danger and move on.
Create Noise. Although they have small ears gophers are extremely bothered by noise. Even when they are underground they can feel the vibrations of the noise and want to get as far away from it as possible.
You could set up a motion-activated noise detector which would go off when a gopher pokes their head out of the hole. Or you could turn on a radio, place it in a resealable bag, and tuck it into one of the gopher tunnels
Liquid Repellents. You can buy a variety of gopher repellents but one of the best and easiest to use is castor oil. Choose your repellents wisely because some will damage your plants, soil, and even harm your pets or you.
Trap Them. When you buy or rent a gopher trap you can safely and effectively trap your troublesome gopher.
Contact A Pest Control Company. You likely have businesses in your city which handle pests in and around your home. They can be costly, but they do usually guarantee their work.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare