How to Kill or Get Rid of Pocket Gophers

"I want to be your friend." (Not!)
"I want to be your friend." (Not!) | Source

Here is a compilation of all known methods to get rid of gophers.

You are on your own as to legal ramifications, local government bureaucracy, animal-rights groups, and whatever else may obstruct or sabotage your efforts. Also, be advised this is a compilation list, not a recommendation list. Have fun with it. Many of the items listed here will actually work. It won’t be difficult to ascertain which is which. Your results may vary.

Warning, some humor may be present.

Pocket Gopher Facts

(Know Your Enemy)

Pocket gophers here. Pocket gophers there. Pocket gophers everywhere.
Pocket gophers here. Pocket gophers there. Pocket gophers everywhere. | Source
  • The pocket gopher is a burrowing rodent found here, there, and everywhere. Their purpose in life seems to be the destruction of plants and land.
  • They can measure up to a foot in length, depending on the species. They have sharp teeth and claws. Gophers, moles, and ground squirrels are often mistaken for each other. Extermination techniques are different for each.
  • Gophers often plug their gopher holes, while the others do not.
  • The gopher home is a complex system of tunnels running up to several hundred feet. The main gopher tunnels run about half a foot below the surface and are three inches or more in diameter. Chambers are created off the main tunnels for food storage and breeding nests. Excess soil is piled on the surface. Though most of the burrow system is relatively close to the surface, many parts of the complex can penetrate to as much as six feet deep.
  • Pocket gopher families are loners and territorial. Their average territory is approximately 40x40 to 50x50 square feet, i.e., a 20 to 25 foot radius.
  • Pocket gophers are active 365 days a year. Surface foraging is not their main forte and is only done very near the gopher hole entrances. Most of their feeding consists of the plant parts below ground.
  • The breeding season for these vociferous and destructive critters is spring. The gestation period is estimated at three weeks. Litters average around five. Sometimes there are two litters per season. In late summer of the same year, the young disperse to create their own homes.

How to Get Rid of Them

  • Run a hose from your vehicle’s exhaust pipe to the nearest gopher hole. With engine running, start covering up any other open gopher holes. If you live in a rural area and a pro-gun state, have your shotgun handy (check local gun ordinances first).
  • Running a garden hose to the gopher complex seldom works, but it is worth a try, especially if the shotgun option is available. More about the water method further down the page.
  • Go to your hardware store and ask for advice. Keep in mind the store clerk’s objective is to sell you something.
  • Drop gum down the gopher holes. It is rumored it will mess up their internal organs.
  • Show them gay-themed gopher movies (admittedly this one is a long shot).
  • Traps work when directions are followed. Gophinator seems to be popular.
  • Gopher bombs sometimes work when directions are followed. The problem is the several hundred feet of tunnels; the gas just isn't able to make it throughout the entire system.
  • Macabee traps are recommended by “everybody”. They work, but require work.
  • Dynamite. However, you may run into local ordinance permit problems with this one.
  • Poison. Follow the directions. Apparently one needs to use a lot of it.
  • Last, but not least, as to this primary list; cats kill gophers. Drop by your local animal shelter and tell them you need an outdoor cat. And tell them why. They will very probably know exactly which cat to give you. As to what the animal shelter will charge you for the cat, there can be a wide variance. It all depends on which county you happen to live in. There is also the very real possibility the cat may just up and disappear before they figure out you intended to feed and take care of them.

More methods are included further down the page.

Sure wouldn't want anything to do with this one if it came running out after me.
Sure wouldn't want anything to do with this one if it came running out after me. | Source

Running a Garden Hose Into the Gopher Complex

Yep, it does not work. In fact, it can turn into the opposite. A personal story:

Gopher mounds here; gopher mounds there; gopher mounds everywhere. I was nonplussed. And then one day I walked out to the apricot tree. There it was; an open gopher hole. He had not covered it up as usual. I immediately got the garden hose and pushed it into the gopher hole. I turned the water on half-force; no backup. So I turned the water on full-force; still no backup. I went away.

I came back an hour later. There was dampness around the hole, but still no backup.

I came back a half-hour after that; the area was flooded. "My work is done here," I thought. Called it a day. Shut off the hose. All was well in the neighborhood.

Yeah, right.

Not only did it not work, they apparently took it personally. I mean seriously, we seem to attribute emotions and attitudes only to humans, but animals have them as well.

First one new dirt pile showed up. "Ok," I thought.

But then another and another and another. The placed had turned from a beachhead into central command. Was it personal? Or did they just like the water supply? You decide. At least the experiment was not a total loss; my house ant invasion problem suddenly ceased.

Update. Two commenters had better success than I did. See next section.

This one doesn't look like much fun either.
This one doesn't look like much fun either. | Source

Suggestions From Comments Section

  • Moth balls. Apparently gophers don't like them. See comments for full description and attribution.
  • Catch-them-alive traps. Then take them far, far away. See comments for full details and attribution.
  • Auto flares. I really liked the sound of this one. See comments for full details and attribution.
  • Take no prisoners. See Frank in the comments Section.
  • Caster oil. Use after the bottle rockets and Roman candles. See Larry in the comments section.
  • Gopher bomb recipe. Chris in the comments section says how. I should mention that saltpeter is the primary ingredient used in gunpowder, so be sure your health and life insurance policies are up to date and the premiums are paid in full.
  • Water hose in Gopher hole (method #1). Tea Ga in the comments section had better luck than I did. Looks like perseverance is the key and I was a slacker in that regard.
  • Water hose in gopher hole (method #2). Gopher golf! I love it! See Charles' comment.
  • Instead of using your car's exhaust, use your gas-powered lawnmower. See Buck's comment. Much more convenient.

I am a groundhog, not a gopher!
I am a groundhog, not a gopher! | Source

Disposing of Dead Gophers

  • Place on top of fence post for the larger birds.
  • Sell them on eBay. Important note: health laws may require you take them to a taxidermist first.
  • Give to your cat.

Keeping Them Away

  • Sprinkle hot spices where you don’t want the gophers to be.
  • Bury chicken-wire beneath where you don’t want the gophers to be.
  • Mix broken glass where you don’t want the gophers to be.

Ultrasonic, electronic, vibration, and magnetic-field devices do not appear to work. So save your money on those.

Never noticed those before. I think that's his ear.
Never noticed those before. I think that's his ear. | Source

About the Comments Section

Do you have a method not listed here? Odds are you do. This is a continually evolving page. If so inclined, add your own method in the comments section below. If deemed worthy, it will be included in future versions of this page.

Shared opinions and experiences you've had with various types and brands of traps would also be much appreciated. If your story can save another reader some grief or aggravation, that is always a good thing.

Sporadic humor aside, it is sincerely hoped this page has given you the information you need. Gophers are indeed obnoxious little critters.

Comments 16 comments

Dee aka Nonna profile image

Dee aka Nonna 5 years ago

They are the most annoying litte animals. I had a least one that would live, at least part-time, under my deck and my neighbors deck. He burrowed a hole under the fence and under each deck. I don't know what he was doing but the noise he made bounced off and came through the fireplace. I called everyone I could think of, looked things up on the internet, tried everything I did my neighbor. Another neighbor who lived across the street, wasn't having the problem, but was afraid he might offered to bring over his gun.. no, I thought. While talking with my son I mentioned it he said he'd heard that moth ball will get rid of pest and little animals from the yard and flower bed. I thought, why not. So I went out and bought several boxes enough for my neighbor.. and we put out so much that the smell of mothballs was almost overwhelming..LOL. But it worked...maybe they too were overwhelmed with the smell. Whatever we were very happy to be rid of our little critters. Thanks for the reminder paradigmsearch, it is funny now...we all had a good laugh, but it wasn't funny then.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

To Dee's point, gophers are never funny, because they are so destructive.

Buy a Have-a-Heart trap the right size for a gopher, trap him/them, and release 20 miles away in a field bordered by woods.

One year we caught 5 this way. What we didn't know until all 5 were caught one at a time was that this was a family of a mother and her brood. For good or evil, each was taken to a different field and released. Doubtful they ever found their ways back to each other.

Christina Miller 2 years ago

I used the hose method the other day to flood one out...didn't have a shotgun, but I had a shovel. Wet, mad gopher took a blow to the head with a shovel. Real life Whack-a-Mole. Now I have one less gopher in my yard!

Tina 2 years ago

Use Auto flares in the holes. Dig out the gopher hole light the flare and throw it in, cover it up. go to the next tunnel system and do the same. Gophers hate the smell of sulfur.

Frank 2 years ago

I "go in after them!" With a pick and shovel I start digging until I reach either the property line or the Gopher... This may sound destructive, but the tunnel will either collapse and leave a rut in your yard, or another gopher will move in after the first is gone. So by digging up the tunnel and refilling after your Gopher is gone, the possibility for another to move into the tunnel is eliminated. It is hard work, but with a water hose and a pick axe I've killed over a hundred Gophers which became established in my neighborhood when some houses were vacant and being sold. The biggest thing is to get right after them as soon as you see a mound, and before they dig for miles.... That always gets the best result, as I've spent a month or more trying to get just one gopher.

Mark 2 years ago

One way to catch a gopher alive is to use the old "school yard snare". Get about 10 feet of string and two pencils. In one end of the string, tied a loose snare loop with a big knot (I use a hangman's loop as the knot and loop the sting through the hangman's). Find a fresh mound and dig the gophers tunnel wide open. On the side away from the opening stick the two pencils into the ground next to each other and place line between the pencils with the snare knot between pencils and hole. Wrap snare loop around inside of hole. Go ten feet away and wait until gopher appears and tries to fill the opening. A gentle tug on snare will get him. FISHING FOR GOPHERS in the school yard.

Mark 2 years ago

Another way to get gopher to move out, is to simply put your kitty scooped poop and pee into gopher hole. Or you can pee into hole yourself. They will be gone.

Larry 2 years ago

They seem to hate bottle rockets, especially the ones that whistle then blow up. I've also tried roman candles, the blow up report ones are the best. Make a lot of noise and it seems to calm them down but then hold on! they'll be back at it in 24 to 48 hours! THE BEST IS TO USE CASTER OIL PRODUCTS TO DETER THEM FROM YOUR AREA.

Angieeee 2 years ago

I was mowing my front lawn and all of a sudden my right foot sank into a deep hole up to my knee. I was shocked! I thought I had a sink hole in my front yard and then realized this hole-- 6 inches round had a tunnel. My neighbor said it was probably a gopher. I proceeded to give it a double whammy and I put a box of moth balls and dog poop and covered the top of the hole with plastic--Lei's see if it returns to ruin my lawn again!

julieannbrady 2 years ago

Well, I believe I have moles, not gophers. I have been battling these little critters for three years now. I'm trying to figure out how many I have. And wonder if it could be just one in the front yard, or a family? Some mornings, it seems as though that mole has been everywhere. I now have a spayed feral cat policing my back yard so I think that might have moved the mole more to the front yard. What do do? I like the idea with the gas exhaust.

LotusLandry profile image

LotusLandry 2 years ago from Southern California

No cats will survive in my densely populated urban environment because the coyotes get the precious cats and break their necks. We end up having an exterminator for the gophers. The beasts seem to covet the smallest 12 feet square patches between cemented areas. I used to try the gas sticks and I even poured solutions of mustard and chili pepper and other smelly things.

Chris 21 months ago

Salt Petre, sugar, and sulfur make an excellent gopher bomb. Mix the Salt Petre and sugar at 2:1. Add as much sulfur as you can stand. Wrap tightly in newspaper, shove down a gopher run, light and run quick. All ingredients can be bought through your local pharmacy. Also makes for a cheap 4th of July! :)

tea ga 19 months ago

Got ride of my problem with a hose you have to fill up every hole and go back a couple of times and then eventually by the second day will be different mounds and you just hit every hole again with the water you don't have to force it you want to flood it and that little critter will come right on out so yes the hose Work

Charles 18 months ago

I've had success with gopher golf; put a hose down the hole, wait for the little critter to come up for air and then tee off. Got 4 in two days with this method.

Bill in FL 10 months ago

Flooding can be very effective where soils are heavy and drain poorly. But if your soil is sandy, as it is here in FL--forget it! The water will drain as fast as you can pour it in. The most you'll do is give the gopher a nice bath.

Buck in San DIego, Ca. 3 weeks ago

when we were younger we used the lawn mower, no, not to shave their butts but with a hose adapted to the exhaust, removed air cleaner, started engine and squirted oil into carburetor. my son swears by the flare method in Washington, but both of these methods are highly criticized from tree huggers and grandchildren. best to stick to traps and tend to then before others get up in the morning.One of my tenants uses poison that goes in a dispenser attached to a pipe . you have to probe around the mound to find the tunnel(s). it has been effective. I'm sticking to the traps, as I want to see my enemy's eye rolled back.

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