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How to Control Gophers: What Do Gopher Holes Look Like?

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When the gophers in our garden started munching on our vegetables, I had to find a solution. Here's what I came up with.

Photo of the typical pocket gopher.

Photo of the typical pocket gopher.

Help! I Have Gophers in the Garden

It can be very depressing to have a home garden that is under attack from gophers. Gophers are little rodents, usually about six inches long, that create underground tunnels to get around.

These tunnels have only one advantage—they can help break up the soil in harder clay soils. But the risk gophers pose to your garden outweighs the reward their tunnels offer your soil.

Here are the solutions we'll cover in this article to help you get rid of your gophers:

  • Natural predators
  • Prevention strategies
  • Non-lethal methods
  • Lethal methods

How Do I Know if I Have Gophers?

It is relatively easy to find out if your property has gophers living below the surface; gophers leave undeniable evidence of their presence. When a gopher is creating their tunnel highway, the dirt gets relocated to the surface, creating a mound of soil. If you see any of these mounds, you have gophers.

In our yard, I have known that we have gophers for many years but I haven’t been too concerned with them, primarily because they never gave me any reason to have to deal with them. My wife recently experienced the displeasure any gardener has when something growing in their garden has been munched on by a garden pest.

She went out in the morning to feed the animals and noticed something had eaten a path through our almost ready to harvest cilantro. Presumably, the same attacker had uprooted a larger than a baseball-sized onion. Thank goodness our tomatoes aren’t ready yet.

What a gopher hole will most likely look like.

What a gopher hole will most likely look like.

Gopher Control

How to Get Rid of Gophers (2 Non-Lethal Solutions)

There are two main methods when it comes to removing gophers, lethal and non-lethal. Non-lethal methods are usually a preferred path for people who don’t want to kill the animal or don’t want to deal with disposing of the animal’s carcass after the kill.

Fortunately, there are a few non-lethal options that aren’t too difficult to administer.

1. Sonic Stakes

The easiest one, and the one we are going to deploy, is getting a few sonic stakes.

These stakes are put into the ground and use batteries to create an uncomfortable and annoying sonic noise in the ground. Since gophers stay in the ground, the theory is that they will become bothered by the constant noise and will relocate to another area.

Picture of the solar powered sonic stakes we have in our garden to control gophers.

Picture of the solar powered sonic stakes we have in our garden to control gophers.

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2. Raised Gardening Bed: Gopher Wire

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to prevent gophers from attacking your vegetables if you are considering a raised bed similar to this one. All you have to do is install a roll of metal wire at the bottom, before you fill the bed with soil and/or manure.

Chicken wire is the recommended wire for this application but I would suggest you install something a little bit stronger, or at least two layers of the chicken wire.

Chicken wire is relatively inexpensive and installing it without the dirt is easy; removing all of the dirt and putting it in is not.

Don’t shortchange this step; do it right the first time and it will last for a long time.

Gophers can chew through the hardest soils but they are not fans of metal so installing a roll of metal wire will keep them away from your raised bed.

Our barn owl, in its home about twenty feet off of the ground, in the pine tree.

Our barn owl, in its home about twenty feet off of the ground, in the pine tree.

How to Get Rid of Gophers (2 Natural but Lethal Solutions)

Many people will tolerate gophers hanging around, as long as their paths never cross. We would see a fresh hole and our little Chihuahua loved to dig in the holes, so we just left them alone.

Unfortunately for them they have found our garden and have forced us to take defensive actions.

3. Invite Predator Owls to Your Property

Another option that is a little bit more complicated, but will last longer than any battery-operated device, is to create an inviting option for owls to come live near your property. Obviously, this option is difficult to use in a major city’s downtown area, but rural homeowners can give this a try.

To entice an owl to consider relocating to your property you will want to learn what kind of owls are in your area. Once you know, you can build an owl box to their size and typical desires. All you can do after rolling out the welcome mat is wait.

Barn owls are comfortable living close to humans and we actually have had one living in our front pine tree for many years. This might be the biggest reason gophers haven’t caused us heartburn all this time; our silent little hunter has been helping to keep the gopher population under control.

The owl is still up in the tree because we see the pellets but we don’t know why it hasn’t discovered this gopher so close to home.

4. Outside Cats Might Take Care of Your Gopher Problem

I have also heard from many different sources that cats can help keep a gopher population in check, especially feral cats. Feral cats are used to being outside and hunting for their own food sources.

This is another reason why we are OK with feeding the three little feral cats that have adopted us, besides the obvious reason that they are hungry.

For us the cost of a bag of cat food once a month is a fee that we are comfortable paying. Having the cats typically hanging around the property helps keep any mice issues at bay as well.

How to Kill Gophers (3 Commercial and Lethal Solutions)

There are three usual methods of lethal gopher removal: gas, poison, and traps.

Poison is probably the least recommended method because it can be accidentally consumed by a curious dog and a legitimate prey animal, like an owl, can eat the poisoned animal and become sick, sometimes fatally.

Unfortunately, this type of second-hand poisoning has increased over time.

5. Using Gas to Get Rid of Gophers

Gassing is done by inserting a tube, about an inch around and five inches long, into a relatively fresh hole and covering it up with dirt.

The gas creates a reaction in the gopher’s internal system leading to death. This option has a much smaller chance of accidentally poisoning another animal but has drawbacks as well.

For it to work effectively, you need to cover up any other holes that are connected to the one you put the gas tube into. Keeping a shovel at the ready is the best way to do this.

After activating the gas tube keep an eye open for any gas escaping in the yard so you can cover up the open hole.

6. How to Use Gopher Traps

Trapping is an effective way to remove gophers without any poisons or gases. A metal trap can be inserted into the hole and it will kill the gopher when it comes into contact with it on its way to the open hole.

This method isn’t without a few negatives as well.

Many people feel that gophers can actually learn about these traps, if their contact with them is not lethal. People feel they become ‘trap smart’ and can learn what the metal feels like making them suspicious and more difficult to trap in the future.

The best way to get around this obstacle is to make the trap work, the first time.

When deploying a trap use thick gloves to prevent any human scent from getting on the actual trap.

After successfully inserting the trap in the hole cover it up with dirt.

The traps are similar in design to mouse and rodent traps but deliver the lethal blow from both sides instead of from above.

How to Trap a Gopher

7. Gopher Bait (Use With Extreme Caution)

Poison bait is probably the least recommended method for controlling gophers.

Cats, owls, hawks and even dogs can become poisoned if they eat the gopher after it has ingested the poison.

This accidental poisoning is common when people are trying to address a rodent problem but can occur when trying to tackle a gopher problem, too.

Other Garden Pests: Moles and Voles

The methods mentioned above to control and kill gophers can be deployed to address a mole or vole problem as well.

I would suggest using the treatment method specifically designed for the animal you are trying to control.

In other words, don't put a gopher trap in the ground if you are trying to trap a vole.

Each trap, bait, etc., has been created for use against one kind of animal (unless the packaging tells you it is OK to use for the other pests).

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 David


Gina on May 10, 2019:

Unfortunately... I believe lethal is the only way to go. I tried flooding tunnels, gassing, sound sticks, etc. and nothing worked. It is frustrating to see a new mound next to the sound sticks. Collapsing tunnels may discourage them... we will see!

Johnny Z on July 17, 2018:

The guy setting the gopher trap isn't what I'd call seasoned. Use leather gloves to keep your human scent off the trap, otherwise the gophers will know to avoid it, and go off in another direction.

Mike1599 on June 04, 2018:

Does lavender discourage gophers?

My neighbor has several lavender plants and fewer gophers

Just lucky or does aromatherapy work?

Mary Ann on August 05, 2016:

I have a huge gopher problem because of a neglectful neighbor. My cats killed several of them and we have made trips to the vet from a gopher bite and they have brought a live baby gopher into the house. My front and back yards are collapsing from all the tunnels, and it gets much worse after a rain. I have tried gassing and the sucker dug up the hole we put the gas in. grrrr. We are considering the sonic stakes. Has anyone tried them?

Frank on March 23, 2014:

The tendency to view these invaders as harmless creatures of the Earth should be carefully evaluated by situation. Gophers can be enormously destructive to yards, and landscapes. Even dangerous, as a person's foot can collapse into a tunnel and cause a fall, or other real injury. I promote vigilant observation and immediate action whenever one finds a Gopher mound. My battle seems constant. Vacant homes being sold, or indifferent neighbors have allowed for a seemingly strong population to become established, and most people don't have a clue as to how to rid the yard of them. As a child, I can not ever remember Gopher's in our yard. But that has changed (I've lived here for 63 years) and now it is a battleground. Every year I "Remove" from 1 to 6 gophers. If I catch a new dig right away, I easily dispatch the little demon by flushing it out with water and a thump with a shovel in often less than five minutes. Some, however avoid detection, and being clever and smart, have offered a real challenge for their demise... taking as long as a month to make a fatal mistake. I've tried almost everything imaginable, and finally discovered that a pick and shovel is hard work, but it works. It also allows elimination of the tunnel by filling it. I simply find a tunnel, and start digging until I either reach the property line, or the Gopher.

David (author) from Idaho on October 15, 2012:

Eiddwen - Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Eiddwen from Wales on October 02, 2012:

What a wonderful hub and thank you for sharing.


David (author) from Idaho on July 31, 2012:

Marcy - they seem to show up at the worst times. Our sonic stakes seem to be working, because I found a new hole over the weekend on the other side of the garden, a good distance away from the two I installed. I guess we need to get a couple more.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on July 30, 2012:

Well, I spoke too soon - in all my time in Texas, I've rarely, if ever, seen a gopher. Still haven't seen one, but boy, do I suddenly have signs of them. Piles of loose dirt with little holes. Wretched little creatures. Too bad they're cute. What a dilemma. I will look for the sonic things and the traps, I guess, but I sure don't have a lot of extra time to deal with this! Whine-whine-whine, huh?

David (author) from Idaho on June 16, 2012:

Mmargie1966 - Maybe salsa would work. Thanks for voting and I appreciate the congratulation; it was a great surprise.

Mmargie1966 from Gainesville, GA on June 16, 2012:

Why don't you use Salsa as bait?

Very interesting hub, although I'm not a fan of killing them if you have an alternative.

Voted interesting! Great read and nice pictures.

Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

moonlake - They are about 6-8 inches long on average. Honestly I have never seen one out of the hole more than its head. We do have ground squirrels that are about the same size that will stand up on their hind legs though and run around all of the place.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

denisemai - I should have mentioned we have three outdoor cats that kind of adopted us. Living out in the country cats and dogs mysteriously show up in the neighborhood once in a while. I don't kind feeding them, especially if they are out keeping the undesirables at bay, thanks.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

tmbridgeland - I thought about the live traps but I don't completely understand how they work. Maybe I need to look into it. Thanks

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

PenHitsTheFan - I couldn't agree with you more.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

livingpah2004 - thank you very much.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

Marcy - Thanks, it was a great surprise to see the HOTD. Appreciate the kind words as well.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

DzyMsLizzy - Wow, it sounds like you have some gophers that don't know when to leave. There is another option that I didn't mention because I don't know how effective it is. There are powders with dried blood (I'm guessing from gophers) that you sprinkle around their holes and then water. The theory is they will smell the blood and will register a threat and move on. Hardware stores sell them. Thanks and Good luck.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

urmilashukla23 - I'm glad the information might help your situation, good luck and thanks for voting and sharing.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

jblais - one of our outdoor cats does the offerings too but we only get the pieces she wants to drop off. Thanks for the vote

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

kelleyward - Thanks, I appreciate the congrats. I was thrilled to a get a HOTD.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

MarleneB - Sounds like you are in a good spot to keep any gophers at bay.


David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

Pamela N Red - Owls might be your best friend to get rid of those gophers. Good luck

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

coffeegginmyrice - I agree on the cuteness but the are way too destructive. We see a couple of ground squirrels occasionally but they seem to stay out of the garden, thankfully.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

ComfortB - Gardening is a blast, glad you are giving it a shot again, good luck with the salsa sacrifice.

Thanks on the congratulations, it was a very pleasant surprise to win a HOTD.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

FatFreddysCat - Loved Caddyshack. I would try the explosives but it would probably scare the rest of our animals to death! Thanks for sharing the article with your Mom.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

Chris Hugh - I had the same thought about letting them be, until my wife came into the house holding what was left of an onion. Go after the little guy is easier than having her vent her frustrations on me for losing her produce.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

Angela Brummer - Fortunately they haven't put any holes out where our horses are, hopefully it stays that way!

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

jpcmc - we usually go the non-lethal route to appease our 13 year old animal loving daughter. That and I am not a fan of getting rid of the after product of a successful lethal dose. Thanks

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

Georgina_writes - I guess moles could fall into some of these tips too. Thankfully I haven't seen moles around, ditto with badgers. Thanks

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

teaches12354 - we are giving the stake a shot at eradicating our hungry little gopher and crossing our fingers that it works. Thanks for the vote.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

Simone - I'm not fan of them either at this point. Thanks for commenting.

David (author) from Idaho on June 14, 2012:

Sunshine625 - Thanks for the vote and sharing

moonlake from America on June 14, 2012:

Your gophers are big different than ours. I have never seen that kind of hole from the gophers here. What size are they?

My husband said he was standing at work today and a gopher ran out stood up on his hine legs and looked at him and he thought for a minute he was going to run up his leg.

We have problems with deer in the garden. We planted the onion sets and a chipmunk came along and popped them all out of the ground. We had replant them.

Good luck with your gophers I know how upsetting it can be when your garden is torn up. Voted Up.

Denise Mai from Idaho on June 13, 2012:

I've seen beautiful yards destroyed by gophers and moles. We have pocket gophers nearby but no yard damage. The only reason I know this is because my cat brings their lifeless bodies to my back porch almost every day. Good kitty? Maybe you should add "get a cat" to your list. LOL

tmbridgeland from Small Town, Illinois on June 13, 2012:

Live traps work well too, but you have to have a good place to release the animal. It is pretty unkind, catching an animal and taking it from its home, but, it's my home too! Mostly we just leave them, but this year they ate all my strawberries, with help from the robins.

Amy L. Tarr from Home on June 13, 2012:

For something so cute, they sure are a pain. Good info.

Milli from USA on June 13, 2012:

Congrats on HOTD! Well deserved. Voted up.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on June 13, 2012:

Congratulations on your HOTD! Gophers are such pests, but they're cute (in a really perverse way!). We have very few of them where I live now, but 'up north' they're more of a problem. Great hub, and so deserving of recognition here!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 13, 2012:

I saw this first thing signing in as Hub of the Day, and it's the first thing I read. We are plagued with gophers, and I was hoping to find some magical cure. ;-)

Sadly, we've tried every single one of these methods, except poison for the very reasons you mention. We do have prey birds, and a lot of either feral cats, or neighbor's cats that are allowed to roam.

We don't like traps, for the "disposal" reasons...

We've tried the sonic stakes--they don't work on our gophers--the danged pests dug right up to them to investigate!

We've tried the gas bombs they sell for the purpose--they don't burn long enough to reach. We switched to half-hour road flares (basically the same premise), and that didn't work, either.

We tried sticking garden hoses down the hole and the gopher moved (temporarily) elsewhere, and we only succeeded in drowning an almond tree!

I've tried other, less conventional methods, such as depositing the "nuggets" scooped from the kitty litter down the holes; and putting mothballs down the holes.

The gopher pops up elsewhere, lauging at us.

You see, we're on about 3/4 of an acre, with an open field behind us, and all of the lots on our block are about a half acre as well.

We don't have normal gophers--we have "robo-gophers!" A neighborhood cat recently caught one that was danged near the size of a small cat!! Yes, it was seen, and yes, it was a gopher! The great-grand-daddy!

This week, we found a gopher pile half the size of Mt. Etna behind the wheel of our truck!

We don't get too upset if they stay out in the "back 40," but when they invade our front lawn, it's WAR!

Congrats on HOTD! Well written--voted up. )Now, to get our gophers to read your article!) ;-)

Urmila from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA on June 13, 2012:

Amazing! I was looking the information how to get rid of Gophers because they are ruining our back yard and eating tomatoes, mint and chili plants. Perfect timing. Love your ideas and will try that. Useful, shared and voted up!

jblais1122@aol from Kansas City, Missouri, USA on June 13, 2012:

I have seen both gophers and moles around my neighborhood. I have the perfect deterrent. My cat Smokey. Gopher runs end at my neighbors yard. Moles get left as offerings on my porch. Somehow, mysteriously, my cat Smokey keeps them out of our yard. I've seen evidence that he may eat gophers. Moles, on the other hand, must not taste good, thus the porch offerings. Voted up and interesting.

kelleyward on June 13, 2012:

I'm sure my parents would have loved to have these tips when I was growing up. Our yard was full of gopher holes. Congrats on HOTD! Take care, Kelley

Marlene Bertrand from USA on June 13, 2012:

These are very helpful tips on how to manage gophers. My next door neighbor has a real problem with gophers. She finally started using the sonic stakes. I hear them at night, but I'm use to them now, so the sound doesn't bother me as much. I'm OK with it because I want those gophers gone. I'm so afraid they might run over to my yard. But, we have raised bed gardens with the wire mesh underneath. So, hopefully that will do the trick. Oh, and we have an owl that sits in a tree in our back yard. Yep! I think we're good... for now.

Congratulations on receiving Hub of the Day!

Pamela N Red from Oklahoma on June 13, 2012:

We've got them again this year. We didn't have them for a few years and thought maybe the neighbor cats were deterring them but the other day I noticed a couple mounds near my driveway. The trouble is they dig under my driveway and dig out the sand and dirt causing it to have cracks.

I'll have to try encouraging owls. I have plenty of other birds so maybe I can get owls to move in. I have plenty of big trees for them to live in.

Marites Mabugat-Simbajon from Toronto, Ontario on June 13, 2012:

Oh, they are cute but makes lawns look terrible. This hub is really informative, interesting as well. Will share it with friends who have larger lawns and gardens.

I only have the black squirrel that visits the backyard often and teases my dog. Though, we are more watchful of birds (black birds and robins) coming to the garden. We don't want them to be pecking too close to the plants for we are growing flowers to attract butterflies. That is why we cannot put up a bird feeder. No caterpillars, no butterflies.

Congratulations for a great hub. Voted up!

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on June 13, 2012:

Very good information on getting rid of Gophers.

I used to wonder what those holes were. I actually thought they were made by the rabbits that comes into my garden, but then they were too small to fit the rabbits.

Well, I gave up gardening for two years now, but if I ever try gardening again, I'll keep an eye out for them critters. I'll maybe leave them a jar of salsa (hot flavor with extra jalepeno and picante) so they can leave my garden alone.

Thanks for a well written hub, and congrats on winning the HOTD award! Voted Up and Useful.

Keith Abt from The Garden State on June 13, 2012:

Everything I needed to know about gopher control, I learned from Bill Murray's character in "Caddyshack." I find that molding squirrels out of plastic explosive works particularly well. ("Hello, Mister Gopher! It's me, your friend Mister Squirrel! Just a harmless woodland creature, not a plastic explosive or anything...")

But seriously, great info here. Fortunately I don't have a gopher problem but my Mom does, I will forward her a link to this article.

Chris Hugh on June 13, 2012:

I have voles in my lawn. They dig up trenches along the edges by the driveway every spring. I used to try to get rid of them, but now I just let them be. I don't do a thing with my lawn anyway, so why not let someone else enjoy it:)

Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 13, 2012:

Wow this is very interesting! I think they are so cute. But, riding horses it is a danger that they can trip and break a leg by stepping in a hole.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on June 13, 2012:

We are lucky. We on't have this pest problem at home. As much as i want to say go for the non-lethal option, I'm sure others are so bothered by them that violence seems to be a rational option. Good job on sharing both lethal and non lethal options.

Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on June 12, 2012:

No problems with gophers, but we have moles that do just the same damage, and badgers when hungry at the end of winter will completely destroy a garden, to the point where you have to start over from scratch. Your tips will work well for moles too. Rated up.

Dianna Mendez on June 12, 2012:

Good information to know. Our home back in the midwest did get quite a few of these critters. My hubby put a stake that vibrated to get rid of them. Voted up!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 12, 2012:

My grandfather used to RAGE about gophers! I bet he would have loved this Hub. Thanks so much for sharing these pest management tips! What a useful Hub indeed!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on June 11, 2012:

I don't have a problem with gophers, but if I did this hub would sure be useful! Voted and shared!

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