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How to Solve a Pocket Gopher Problem

Updated on June 3, 2014
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I am an avid self-taught gardener (I learn as problems arise), bird watcher, and nature lover.

If you have pocket gopher problems, there is one sure way to know, and that is the lay of the rodent's mound. If the mounds are crescent- or horseshoe-shaped, you know that a gopher has invaded your lawn. It’s best not to ignore this rodent, because this busy fellow can ruin your lawn, garden or orchard, by chewing through the roots of your trees, shrubs, and uprooting your vegetables.


Pocket Gopher Facts

The pocket gopher is a burrowing herbivore. They have powerfully built forequarters, and large-clawed front paws used for digging and tunneling. They have small eyes, small ears, and sensitive facial whiskers that assist in moving in the dark, with fine short fur.

One unusual feature of the gopher is its lips. The animal’s lips can close behind four large incisor teeth, keeping dirt out of its mouth when it is using its teeth for digging. They are about 5 1/2 to 9 inches long with a tail that is 2 to 4-1/2 inches long.

Most of the mound building is done in the spring or fall when the soil is moist and easy to dig. However, if you have a nicely irrigated lawn, flowerbed or garden, digging conditions will be just ideal for them long into summer.

Gophers spend most of their entire life underground, only coming to the surface to seek new territory or to push soil out of their tunnel systems. Their tunnel systems can be extensive, covering an area of 200 to 2000 feet. Moreover, it is very possible to have on average, 16 to 20 of these creatures per acre.

They feed on roots, tubers, bulbs, carrots, vegetables, grass, nuts, and sometimes plants, pulling the whole plant into it tunnel from below. In winter, the rodent will eat the bark of trees.

Different Remedies to Solve Gopher Problem

If you have a gopher problem, there are different ways that you can remedy the problem. As you will see, and maybe you've already tried, some solutions will work, while others do not.

Gopher Traps

There are several types of gopher traps that you can use to catch a gopher, the two-pronged pincher trap and the choker-type box trap.

Whichever trap you use, you will need to locate the main entrance, and then open the tunnel wide enough to set the traps. It is best to set the traps in pairs, and face them in opposite directions so you can catch the gopher coming from either end of the burrow.

You do not need to bait the trap; however, baiting seems to give better results. You can place carrots, apples, or lettuce in the trap for bait. Check the traps every 2 to 3 days. If you have not caught the gopher within 3 days, you may need to reset the traps in a different location.

Poison Baits

Strychnine laced grain is the most commonly used gopher bait. This is a botanical poison that works fast and is extremely effective. In addition, this is a safe product because after being in the soil for a few days it will decompose. However, it also means that it will not give you any control of new pocket gophers that may decide to move into the old tunnel system. This bait is lethal, requiring only one feeding by the critter. You can usually get this from a hardware store or garden supply store. If you intend to purchase a large amount of the poison, you will need a permit to do so. With gloves, apply the strychnine into the main tunnel.

Diphacinone is a poison that is combined with grain and then embedded in wax to form a solid block. Though this is not as effective as the strychnine, it is usually preferred when children and pets are present. The downside to this bait is that it is slow acting. The gopher will have to eat the bait for 5 to 10 days before you see any results.

Is Natural Predators an Easy Remedy?

You can rely on the gopher’s natural predators to get rid of the problem. Their natural predators are owls, snakes, cats, dogs and coyotes. However, predators do not usually stake out a short feeding area. Thus, to rely on predators to take care of the problem would be a mistake, and should be not considered as a solution.

Less Toxic-Flooding the Gopher Hole

Flooding is one less toxic way of getting rid of the gopher. To flood the gopher out of his tunnel you will need to:

1. Open the mound and dig down to the main tunnel.

2. Place the hose in the tunnel and turn on the faucet. You may need to let the water run for at least 15 minutes to an hour.

Since the gopher lives his life underground, do not be surprised to see water spilling out of many holes in your. As the water is running, keep your eyes on the different mounds, watching for the critter to escape. Heartless as this may seem, if you see the rodent trying to make its escape, you will need to take a shovel and kill it.

What Worked For Us

This time around, we worked with one of the crudest methods I discussed above, and that is the flooding method. First, my husband found the main entrance to the tunnel, well, at least we hoped it was, then took a shovel and dug down to the main entrance. We placed the hose as far into the tunnel and turned on the faucet. At this time, you will get a firsthand look at the damage a pocket gopher can cause, because you will see many small fountains of water bubbling to the surface across your lawn.

You will have to keep the water running for a while. In our case, it took about an hour. All the tunnels will have to be well saturated before the gopher will come out. However, once it surfaces, you have to take the shovel and do the unthinkable, kill it.

To conclude, once you have gotten rid of your pocket gopher(s) you will need to monitor your lawn on a regular basis. Since gophers are not shy about taking over a vacated tunnel system, re- infestation should always be a concern


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