How to Control Gophers: What do Gopher Holes look like

Pocket Gopher

Photo of the typical pocket gopher
Photo of the typical pocket gopher | Source

Gopher in 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 breakup the soil in harder clay soils but the primary disadvantage of these tunnels far outweighs this one advantage.

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 now but I haven’t been too concerned with them, primarily because they never gave me any reason to have to deal with them, until now. 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, I guess the little varmint had a craving for salsa? Thank goodness our tomatoes aren’t ready yet.

Gopher Hole

What a gopher hole will most likely look like.
What a gopher hole will most likely look like. | Source

Gopher Control

If you had gophers how would you address the problem?

  • Leave them alone
  • Only deal with them if they started to damage my garden
  • Get rid of them, lethal is fine with me
  • Get rid of them but only using non-lethal methods
See results without voting

Getting Rid of Gophers

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, for their own reasons, 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. 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, this is an especially interesting option for anyone who doesn’t like their neighbors too much.

Many people are OK with gophers hanging around, as long as their path never crosses ours. We would see a fresh hole and our little Chihuahua loved to dig in the holes so we just let them be. Unfortunately for them they have found our garden and have forced us to take defensive actions.

Ultrasonic Rodent Repeller

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 | Source

Predator Owls

Another option that is a little bit more complicated, but will last longer than any battery operated option, 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 option 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 any heartburn all of this time, because 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.

Barn Owl Picture

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 | Source

Outside Cats

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. I have personally seen one of the cats taking care of a mouse it found. I was leaving for work one early morning and I saw her in the middle of the front lawn, a location that I hadn’t seen her in before. I walked up to her to see what she was doing when I noticed she had a furry little creature in her grasps. What really stuck with me was the look in her eyes. Here was a normally sweet and mild mannered kitty who had transformed into a calculated hunter and she certainly had the look on her face to match this intensity.

On more than one occasion one of the cats has left us offerings of their hunts. I know it is something that my wife is not a fan of cleaning up but I have no problem doing it because I know that is one less creature that can cause mischief on our property.

How to Kill Gophers

There are three usual methods of lethal gopher removal, gas, poison and traps. Poison is probably the least recommended method because the poison 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 has become such a common occurrence it even has a label now, it is called second hand poisoning.

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. The main drawback is, 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. I have never tried this method but I somehow envision a heavily infested yard looking like it has a bunch of Old Faithful water spouts in it with all of the potential places the gas could escape.

Gopher Trap

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 way 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 smell from getting on the actual trap; this isn’t a knock about your hygiene but these animals have a good sense of smell and can detect our presence. After successfully inserting the trap in the hole cover it up with dirt. The idea here is the gopher will do what they do and work on getting the dirt to the surface triggering the trap and killing the gopher. 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

Gopher Bait

Poison bait is probably the least recommended method for controlling gophers. The main problem with using bait is how easy you can poison another animal. 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.

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 worst, 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.

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 which creature 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.

Comments 53 comments

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

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

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

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!

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

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!

Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 4 years ago from Dartmoor

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.

jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

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.

Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

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.

Chris Hugh 4 years ago

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:)

FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State

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.

ComfortB profile image

ComfortB 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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.

coffeegginmyrice profile image

coffeegginmyrice 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

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!

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

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.

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

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!

kelleyward 4 years ago

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

jblais1122@aol profile image

jblais1122@aol 4 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri, USA

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.

urmilashukla23 profile image

urmilashukla23 4 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

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!

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

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!) ;-)

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

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!

livingpah2004 profile image

livingpah2004 4 years ago from USA

Congrats on HOTD! Well deserved. Voted up.

PenHitsTheFan profile image

PenHitsTheFan 4 years ago from Home

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

tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

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.

denisemai profile image

denisemai 4 years ago from Idaho

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

moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

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.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

Sunshine625 - Thanks for the vote and sharing

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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


adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

livingpah2004 - thank you very much.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

PenHitsTheFan - I couldn't agree with you more.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

Mmargie1966 profile image

Mmargie1966 4 years ago from Gainesville, GA

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!

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

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?

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

What a wonderful hub and thank you for sharing.


adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California Author

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

Frank 2 years ago

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.

Mary Ann 2 months ago

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?

Annie 2 months ago

isn't this ALL illegal????? you need to contact a Wildlife Management Rescue if you are having any issues with the ENDANGERED GOPHER TORTIS!!!!!!!

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