How to Trap A Gopher? Best Bait and Gopher Trapping Tips

How to Trap A Gopher

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.

You can use lettuce, carrots, apples, potatoes, or peanut butter as bait. Put the bait at the back of the box trap, past the wire trigger, or in a pincer-type trap, behind the flat pan. Attach your traps to stakes with wire, making them easier to pull out of the burrow.

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.

How to Trap a Gopher (Step-by-Step Guide)

Choose the Best Trap Type for Your Needs

There are two main types of gopher traps to consider:

Scissor-Style Traps

  • Scissor-style traps consist of two metal rectangular prongs that snap shut, killing the gopher upon contact.
  • Kill traps are more convenient since you don’t have to relocate the gopher.
  • These traps are positioned underground in the gopher’s tunnel, so the prongs surround it when triggered.
  • Require safety precautions when setting as they close forcefully.
  • Good choice if you want to eliminate gophers without relocation.

Box-Style Live Capture Traps

  • Box-style live capture traps are made of plastic or metal and have a spring-loaded door that traps the gopher inside without harm.
  • Allow for humane relocation of a gopher at least 5 miles away.
  • You need to regularly check these traps and quickly release the gophers.
  • Provide an option to avoid killing if desired.
  • If undamaged, these traps can be used multiple times.

Both trap styles can be equally effective when set properly. Choose the trap style—scissor-style or box-style—that best fits your situation.

Gather the Right Equipment

Having the proper gear will make your trapping project easier:

  • Use leather or thick garden gloves to protect your hands while digging tunnels and setting traps.
  • A trowel or small shovel is needed to open gopher tunnels.
  • Use a bucket to store dirt mounds and transport traps.
  • For bait, fresh vegetables, peanut butter, and nuts work well.
  • Use a stake or heavy object to secure the trap in the tunnel and prevent dirt from blocking it.
  • A trap-setting tool is essential for safely setting scissor traps without putting your fingers near the spring.

Identify Active Tunnel Locations

Look for signs of active tunnels:

  • Look for fresh dirt mounds, which indicate gophers pushing dirt to the surface while digging new tunnels.
  • Identify raised ridges above tunnels by feeling for elevated areas in your lawn, which suggest a tunnel below.
  • Check for damaged vegetable plants, as wilting, dying, or overturned plants often signal gopher activity.
  • Look for earth plugs, which are small mounds of dirt that cover the entrances to gopher tunnels.

For the best success, set traps near the openings of active tunnels.

Prepare and Bait the Traps

Ready your traps:

  • Test the trigger of scissor traps and make sure their spring is tight.
  • Bait the trigger plate of scissor traps and the inside of the box traps using apples, peanut butter, carrots, or lettuce.
  • Wear gloves while handling traps to prevent leaving your scent, which can deter gophers.
  • Dig into a gopher’s active tunnel and insert the trap about 6 to 12 inches inside.
  • Secure the trap with a stake to keep it in place and stop dirt from blocking it.

Set Traps in Multiple Locations

Gophers have complex underground tunnels with multiple openings. Place 4 to 5 traps in various active tunnels to improve your chances of catching gophers. Re-bait and reset traps that get triggered but fail to catch the gopher.

Check Traps Frequently

Check the traps every few hours, if you can, to quickly deal with any trapped gophers. You want to remove trapped gophers quickly before they die naturally or gnaw their way out of box traps. Reset traps that have been activated but didn’t catch anything. Remove dead gophers so they don’t deter other gophers.

Use Caution When Handling Traps

Take safety precautions when dealing with traps:

  • Release live gophers at least 5 miles away to prevent them from returning.
  • When you release a gopher, pick an area with plenty of food and ground cover.

Best Bait for Trapping Gophers

Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is an effective and reliable bait for gophers. Gophers find its oily fat and salty flavor irresistible. Stick a tablespoon on the trap’s trigger plate.

Apples – Gophers love munching on fresh apple slices. The sweet scent attracts them.

Carrots – Carrots, with their sweet smell and taste, are excellent bait. Shredded carrots work well.

Lettuce – Romaine, iceberg, and leaf lettuce offer moisture and crunch. The green leaves attract gophers.

Potatoes – Slices of raw potato are another good bait choice. Both white and sweet potatoes are effective.

Avoid These Baits

Some foods are less appealing to gophers:

  • Citrus Fruits – Gophers dislike the strong citrus oils
  • Onions or Garlic – The strong aromas repel gophers
  • Spicy Foods – Gophers are sensitive to spicy flavors
  • Dairy – Foods like cheese or yogurt spoil too quickly outside

Gopher Trapping Tips

Strategic Trap Placement

  • Concentrate your trapping near active tunnels, which you can identify by fresh dirt mounds or raised ridges in the ground.
  • Tunnel entrances near vegetation are often high-traffic areas for gophers.
  • Set traps in straight portions of tunnels, not near curves or forks.
  • Cover traps lightly with dirt to prevent light from deterring gophers.

Use a Systematic Approach

  • Use flags or stakes to mark trap locations, which helps in systematically rotating through the tunnel system.
  • Set traps in the cool morning when gophers are most active
  • Check traps every 3-4 hours if possible.
  • Keep traps active in the system even after catching gophers.
  • Keep traps clean and spray with deodorizer to limit human scent.

Persistence is Key

  • It takes time to successfully trap all gophers in an area.
  • If catching gophers alive, release at least 5 miles away.
  • After trapping activity declines, re-bait and reset traps to catch stragglers.
  • Monitor for new mounds and rerun trap lines if new gophers appear.
  • Be patient! Trapping out all gophers may take 2-3 weeks of diligence.

Signs of a Gopher Problem

Mounds of Dirt

Fresh mounds of loose dirt in your yard suggest that gophers are tunneling just below the surface. The small fan-shaped mounds are created as gophers push excavated dirt up to the surface of their burrows. New mounds signal an active tunnel system.

Raised Ridges

In lawns or softer soils, the underground tunnels create visible raised ridges running through your yard. To locate tunnels, feel for smooth, rounded ridges in the ground. Tunnels are typically 6-12 inches below ground.

Damaged Plants

Gophers feed on plant roots, often killing or damaging vegetation. Plants that wilt, die, or fall over with chewed roots clearly indicate gopher activity. Vegetable gardens are favorite targets.

Tunnel Entrances

Watch for small, 3-inch tunnel openings that have loose dirt around their edges. Gophers frequently plug these holes with soil, but you can spot open burrow entrances if you look closely.

Lateral Runs

Gophers create laterally running tunnels 6-12 inches below ground to access plant roots. In lawns, straight lines of wilting grass often mark these shallow feeding tunnels.

Pinhole Light Entry Points

Examine raised ridges and mounds for tiny 1-2 inch holes. These holes, where light enters, indicate active tunnel systems. These pinholes indicate active tunnel systems below.

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 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.

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:

  • Hantavirus
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM)
  • Plague
  • Leptospirosis

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:

  • Lice
  • Fleas
  • Mites
  • Ticks

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.

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.

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