- BASIC GOPHER BIOLOGY
- GOPHER BURROWS AND NESTS
- GOPHER LIFE CYCLE AND REPRODUCTION PATTERN
- DAMAGING GOPHERS
- BEST GOPHER REPELLENTS
- HOW TO CONTROL ACTIVE GOPHERS
- NATURAL GOPHER CONTROL
- BEST GOPHER BAIT
- BEST GOPHER KILL TRAPS
- HOW TO LIVE TRAP GOPHERS
- HOW TO TREAT ABANDONED GOPHER MOUNDS
- IN SUMMARY
- CONTACT US
Gophers are a small rodent which appears in many states across America. Known as “Pocket Gophers” because of pouches which are on each side of their mouths, these animals are often times mistaken for a rat, a chipmunk, a woodchuck or a squirrel. They are quite possibly the most common mis-identified animal in the United States
Gophers have small ears which are barely noticeable, large incisors which constantly grow and forepaws which are big and clawed. Gopher incisors grow outside their lips so they are able to close their mouth all the way and able to chew without getting dirt in their mouth. The front of their body is both strong and agile; gophers can move backward in their den about as rapidly as they can move forward! All these adaptations allow these animals to thrive wonderfully under ground.
BASIC GOPHER BIOLOGY ^
Since gophers don’t have a keen sense of smell or sight, they rely on their whiskers to “feel” their way around. Though thought to be nocturnal, gophers are on the move most of the day. Even though it may be bright and sunny outside, it is always dark where gophers spend their time.
There are over 30 species around the world and over a dozen which reside in the United States. Most are in the western part of the country but the south has a species as well. Most common in the west are the Northern Gopher, the Thomomys Botta Gopher, the Plains Gopher, the Desert Gopher, the Texas Gopher and the Yellow Faced Gopher. The south has the Southeastern Gopher. Most are around six inches to two feet in length and range in size depending on species, food supplies and type of habitat. Gophers vary greatly in color; because they don’t migrate and stay close to where they were born, colors can be quite different even within a state.
A wide range of environments can support gophers. They have been found at altitudes over two miles high as well as low coastal regions. However, they don’t do good in areas subject to flooding. There is also a direct relation between soil type and tunnel structures. Shallow soils are more likely to cave in so sandy soil forces gophers to tunnel deep. The moisture at deeper levels will help to hold the sand in place which is needed to support their tunnels. Light textured, porous soils are also good at releasing gases so they are generally preferred over hard clay which is difficult to move. Tunnel depths will also vary depending on temperatures. In areas where there are hot summers, expect to find them both deeper and more protected. Interestingly, there is very little crossing over of species throughout the United States. Though well over half of the states have one species or another, it is most common to find very distinct borders dividing species and though some hybrids surely exist, species have been able to keep themselves distinct. This is due in large to their reproductive and common day to day activity.
GOPHER BURROWS AND NESTS
Pocket Gophers will usually keep only one living animal in any found tunnel system. If its a male, he will constantly be looking for females. Once he finds one, he will mate and return to his domain.
If a female resides in the burrow, expect little ones sometime in the future. These tunnels usually have a main burrow, which is close to a surface mound, from which all other tunnels leave. The main burrow is generally 1-2 feet deep but it will be deeper if soil conditions warrant such placement. Mounds are the raised dirt piles created by all the digging gophers do. Though one main mound exists, more will rapidly appear once the animal gets established and determines it wants to stay.
From this time forward it is not unusual to have more than a mound created every day! It has been determined that gophers can move over two tons of soil each year and some populations in the southeast have been found to move over 50 tons of dirt in just one acre!!! And even though it may snow in your state, don’t think this will slow them down. In fact, gophers are active year round. They don’t hibernate and continually need food so they will readily burrow through snow attempting to find food.
Needless to say, this burrowing causes a lot of damage and though some will argue it is good for aeration and soil reconditioning, many times this activity leads to broken pipes, breaks in flood control dams and reservoirs and damage to existing foundations and structures.
Though mound building and tunneling may be more active in the spring, it seems to be equally as active in the fall. Male burrows seem to have more tunnels – most likely created while attempting to find females – and abandoned tunnels and burrows will readily become occupied by any gopher close by looking for a place to live.
GOPHER LIFE CYCLE AND REPRODUCTION PATTERN
Gophers will reach sexual maturity in the spring following their birth. Most species will have two litters a year with anywhere from 4-10 per litter. Densities per acre seem to be related most to food supply and local soil conditions. The better soil and more food available areas will have more gophers. Over 50 animals per acre have been found with more than 60 in some areas where both soil conditions and food supplies are good. Most gophers can live 2-5 years on average with some being able to live over 8 years if conditions are right
NATURAL GOPHER PREDATORS ^
Though gophers have a list of natural predators, there is no one animal which appears to like a gopher meal more than a badger. Skunk, fox, coyote, snakes, cats, dogs, bobcat and several birds of prey (like barn owls) will feed on gophers, but badgers seem to be best built for a gopher meal. Once they find a gopher mound and tunnel, a badger will dig and dig to get the reward. Their strong fore legs enable them to dig as deep as they want and it is not uncommon to find huge areas dug up where a badger has stubbornly worked to get a meal. It almost appears as though the reward could not have been worth the effort for when a badger displaces hundreds of pounds of dirt for an animal which may not weigh a pound, one has to wonder.
However, this scenario has played out over and over and the author suspects this behavior has contributed in part to why the badger got it’s name. Other predators may not fare so well. Though coyotes and skunk will dig a little, they are not prepared physically to endure the wear and tear their bodies will incur trying to dig out a gopher. Snakes may not do much better. Gophers will readily stop up a tunnel while facing a snake, open it’s mouth and form a shield of sorts with it’s teeth. Other animals, like chipmunks, lizards or squirrels will leave a tunnel once a gopher has been found to live there.
DAMAGING GOPHERS ^
The damage caused by burrowing gophers can be extensive. Though tunneling and burrows can cause flooding and damage to structures, gophers are most known for the damage they do to plants. Many homeowners have had a gopher move into their yard only to find it eating anything and everything it could find.
GOPHERS LOVE MOST ANY PLANT ^
Gophers need a lot of food to sustain themselves. They will eat a plant any which way they can. Feeding will occur under ground on the plant roots, at the base of the plants trunk and on exposed foliage. Feeding will occur above ground when plants are located close to the main mound of a local gopher. Feeding will occur as gophers tunnel to the base of a desired plant where they will surface, cut the plant down quickly and feed on the most nutritious part leaving behind most of the plant in tact – except it is dead.
When roots are fed upon, the plant may die a slow death not seen or noticed above ground until it is too late. Bulbs, vegetables grown underground and fruit ripening within the reach of their tunnels are all subject to damage.
Farmers suffer more. Not only do gophers do more damage to crops annually than almost any other animal in the Midwest, their mounds can get so large they have a huge impact on farm equipment. The raised dirt their burrows create will dull the blade of any sickle-bar and control measures are not easy at such a large scale. However, there are several options available if you need to control a local infestation in the yard. Keep in mind that where you have a local population established over a period of years, it can take a combination of the options to get and sustain control.
BEST GOPHER REPELLENTS ^
If you have a yard, flower bed, garden or crop area that is situated close to where gophers are either active or living, the odds are high they will one day find their way to your property. For this reason, it may be wise to set out a repellent before they arrive.
There are several available all of which can provide a first line of defense. In most cases, a little bit of effort and cost spent before they arrive will prove to be nothing compared to what it will take to get rid of them once they start nesting.
Repellents fall into a few categories. Scent (odor), taste and sound.
PREDATOR URINE ^
The first is the use of COYOTE URINE. By installing this along property lines which are most likely to filter gophers into your yard, the scent of coyote can be enough to keep gopher’s away. It is best to pour it out where you expect gophers may enter your property; since gophers travel under ground it is suggested you try to “draw” a line which in theory will be detected by the gopher as it forages. Once it smells the danger it will stop headed toward your property, change course or retreat.
Sprinkle urine along entry borders using 1-2 oz per 10-20 feet. Plan on renewing the application every 30 days.
Most applications will last 1 month but if you want longer lasting residual, install LIQUID GUARDS. These are plastic holding reservoirs which can hold a few ounces of urine and protect it from rain and sun. Using liquid guards will allow you placements to last 60+ days.
The use of Urine down exiting burrows or dens is not suggested unless you are sure the animals have been removed (see details on how to remove them below). In other words, applying urine to active burrows will not chase them away. Only after you have successfully removed the ones which live there should the old borrows be sprayed. At that time the urine odor will keep away new animals from moving in to take advantage of the vacated home.
We offer two types of urine guards. The first one gets “staked” to the ground and holds the urine up top. The cover is easy to remove and once urine is placed inside, seal it back up and place the stake in the ground. Placements of the guards should be every 8-10 feet in areas with high activity.
The second option is more “discreet”. Using smaller vessels to store the urine, CAPSULE GUARDS will do a fine job of preserving the placement and allowing it to permeate around the property. These hold a little less than an ounce and are applied by pushing them into the ground. The guards will slowly release the urine like the larger guards above. The net result will be 60+ days of protection instead of a month or less.
BOBCAT URINE can also be used in place of Coyote Urine. Although coyotes are found in most every state, if you have active bob cat on the prowl, they would be feared by gophers too.
BAD TASTING GOPHER REPELLENT ^
Since many gardeners experience damage done to their plants and in particular, certain species at different times of the year, spraying the plant or it’s roots during planting can stop this from happening. Use PEST RID on vulnerable plant bulbs, flowers prior to planting, and even trees or shrubs you suspect may attract gophers.
Pest Rid will not hurt plants but instead, make damaging animals want to ignore the area.
Pest Rid also works great for treating inanimate objects as well. Pipe conduits, fence rows, water pipes, pvc or metal all can be treated prior to placing in the ground. Remember, gophers need to grind their teeth. Since their incisors are constantly growing, the need to grind them down is important or else they risk dying from having them grow too large. Because of this need gophers will look for select hard items on which to gnaw.
If you have something they want to chew, treating it with Pest Rid will stop this behavior immediately.
One quart of Pest Rid will treat up to 125 sq/ft of surface area.
GOPHER SOUND REPELLERS ^
There is sound option that can be employed to repel active animals and keep them from entering the property. Basically these devices emit a slow “pulsing” vibration gophers do not like. The SONIC GOPHER CHASER has two settings and can cover a large area. If you want the best and you want to set up a fortress through which local moles cannot penetrate, then get this unit for the immediate problem. Each unit can protect up to 1/4 acre and batteries will last 6-10 months depending on the power setting used. On average, expect to change them at least once a year.
When installed properly, the sound will penetrate deep into the chambers and recesses where gophers like to reside. The sound is annoying enough to chase away established and new gophers seeking harborage.
To chase away established animals, install one unit per mound and let it run for 2 weeks to ensure the animal has left. After two weeks, treat the mound as explained below by applying predator urine and filling the holes.
To prevent gophers from entering the property, line property with devices every 100 feet.
If you only need to prevent gophers, the SOLAR POWERED SONIC REPELLER runs off sunlight and can do the job. Not as powerful as the unit above, it will still be enough of a deterrent to keep new gophers from coming around.
HOW TO CONTROL ACTIVE GOPHERS ^
Once gophers are active in the yard, the best approach is to be more direct with either baits or traps.
NATURAL GOPHER CONTROL ^
Worth mentioning is another option that can be effective. Considered to be a “natural” way to control gophers, it won’t be fast or quick. And at best its what we consider to be a “novelty” but it is a valid way to control small animals like gophers, rats, mice, ground squirrels and more.
It has long been known that Barn Owls will consume gophers on a regular basis. If you have this species of Owl living in your region, you can install a BARN OWL BOX on your property with the hope that one will move in. Once occupied, the foraging bird will prey upon local rodents like gophers and in doing so, keep their numbers minimized.
Though the impact by owls can be significant, don’t install a house and expect to have owls living there immediately. Our boxes are built to attract owls but in most cases it will take a season or so before you get one to take up residence. This is because owls are only looking for a home in the spring and they tend to use the same areas when available. There will always be exceptions to this but don’t expect much to happen in the first few months of installing an Owl Box.
We actually build two styles of house. One is a made with nothing but plywood. This structure will prove to last about the same as the Cedar design but cost is less due to the less expensive wood needed for construction.
Plywood homes can be painted any color and should be sealed on the outside to protect them from water.
The Cedar home is the same exact dimensions and design as the plywood. However, it uses all cedar except the roof and bottom. These parts are made of plywood since the plywood lasts so much longer than cedar. However, the rest of the home uses cedar which is stained a dark brown as shown.
Houses measure 18″ tall, 18″ deep and 11″ wide. Place them at least 10 feet up a tree but they can also be mounted on telephone poles.
BEST GOPHER BAIT ^
For large areas with active gophers, your best control options will be to either bait or trap them out.
Baiting is generally accepted as the “easy” method and for that we have two bait options.
So for when you’re 100% sure you have gophers, our strychnine based GOPHER BAIT is a good choice. This active will kill gophers quickly.
Use 1 oz per 10 feet of tunnels; 1 lb will cover up to an acre. Renew every 2 weeks until there is no activity in tunnels. To test tunnels for activity, simply push down tunnel runs. If they pop back up in 1-2 days, bait them by poking small holes on top and dropping the pellets into the hole. After the tunnel is baited, cover it with a leaf and then some loose dirt. Give the treatment a week to be accepted and then push the tunnels down again to see if they get pushed back up. If they do, rebait.
If you’re not 100% sure you have gophers and suspect they may be moles, use the “dual” animal bait. GOPHER AND MOLE BAIT will work on both animals since it uses a food base both like. This is tricky since moles prefer insects and gophers prefer vegetation.
Use it the same way as the gopher bait above by placing it into active tunnels.
To effectively treat, try to bait every 5-10 feet along tunnel systems. The bait will be found since most gophers will travel the length of their tunnel system at least once a day. You want to treat as many of the tunnels that you can to insure they’ll find it. Since gophers will seal any entrance or weak spot along their tunnels, areas where bait has been applied are likely to receive some attention which many times covers the bait you applied. By making several placements you insure at least one will be found.
GOPHER BAIT APPLICATORS ^
To get precise applications deep into gopher tunnels, use a GOPHER SNAKE BAITER. This device is easy to use and can hold almost an ounce of bait. Its about 3 feet long so once you get the head into the tunnel, you can penetrate it deep where foraging gophers will find the offering without any disturbance from above.
If you have several mounds and tunnels to treat, get a commercial BAIT APPLICATOR. This rod like device is used by poking it through the top of the tunnel and releasing some bait. Use of the tunnel baiter is both easier and will save a lot of time – particularly when you have to treat a lot of tunnels.
All you need to do is poke the rod through the ground to the tunnel and turn the bait release crank. A premeasured dose will drop into the tunnel insuring proper placement, easy application and no major damage to sensitive tunnels. With gopher tunnels getting several feet deep, baiting as low as possible can lead to faster restults.
BEST GOPHER KILL TRAPS ^
Though baiting is easy and generally a good way to start controlling an active population, often times it won’t kill all active animals. This will happen for many reasons including bait shyness, a lack of interest in the bait offered or simply by missing the bait altogether.
Regardless of the reason, if you still have gophers active following an intensive baiting program, you’ll need to do some trapping.
There are many traps available for gophers but they can be broken down into two types. Kill traps and live traps.
Either trap will do a good job when used properly. The key to success with their use is placement.
First, you need to find an active mound and tunnel – preferably the main burrow. Next, open the plug hole, which is located on one side of the mound. Try to position traps on either side of the lateral tunnels coming off the main burrow.
Bear in mind that freshly dug mounds usually have plugs which are only a few inches deep. Placement in new mounds seems to work best since this is where the gopher is currently active.
Once the traps have been placed, plug the burrow as it was before you opened it up. Most trappers set out traps in this fashion with the expectation the gopher will come back to work the mound area, find the trap and try to push it out leading to it’s demise.
Another way to set the trap is to place it down the main burrow after removing the plug and once set, leave the tunnel open. The theory here is that you hope the gopher finds the trap and tries to push it out treating it as something foreign which needs to be displaced.
The Death Trap is best suited for small gophers in the 2.5 inch or less wide range. Try to place 2-3 in the tunnels stemming off a main dirt mound.
The second trap widely used for the gophers is the Cinch. Go with these if you have larger animals. We offer them in three sizes, 2.5″ wide, 3″ and 3.5 inch. Get the size that will best fit the tunnel width in your yard. Its not unusual for there to be multiple width tunnels so you may need different sizes.
Like the Death Clutch, these traps need to be set inside the main dirt mound. How many you need will depend largely on how many tunnels stem off the mound. In most cases, there will be at least two main tunnels. But if you have 3 or even 4, set that many traps.
Trap sets should be made with the base of the trap closest to the mound and the “cinch” end away from the mound. This way no matter what direction a gopher approaches, they’ll be confronted by the jaws of the trap. And as they attempt to push it aside, they’ll get caught.
Traps come in three sizes. Get the traps that best match the width of the tunnels. Small traps are good for tunnels 2.5″ or less (their jaws open up to 2.25″). Medium traps are good for tunnels up to 3.25″ down to 2.75″ (their jaws open up to 3.0″). Large traps are good for tunnels 3.75″ down to 3.25″ (their jaws open up to 3.5″).
HOW TO LIVE TRAP GOPHERS ^
If your gophers are surfacing and causing damage, they can be live trapped. Generally this can be tricky to do unless they’re surfacing. Surfacing locations would be at the base of a plant, shrub, or special vegetable they’re targeting. Evidence of gopher activity will be in the form of “girdled” bark or chewed back vegetation.
Once you determine what they’re targeting, use some of this plant as “bait” to first lure and then catch the offending gopher.
To help get the gophers attention, bait with the plant or grass they’re feeding on in your yard. Just place a good amount of it in our LT5518RD live trap and position the trap just above the tunnel they’re using to access the plant. Be sure to use “lead” bait from the tunnel to the trap by smearing some of the GOPHER LIVE TRAP BAIT on the ground, at the traps entrance door and on the actual bait placed inside the trap. This will help guide the gopher to the entrance of the trap with ease since they don’t see too well.
This trap will work on gophers, ground squirrels, rats and prairie dogs and is a great way to go if you’re finding damaged plants or shrubs in the yard.
HOW TO TREAT ABANDONED GOPHER MOUNDS ^
Once active gophers have been baited or trapped and removed, empty and abandoned burrows will be targeted by new animals looking for a place to live. This is only natural and to be expected so do not leave them to erode naturally. Instead, take action to make them “unusable”.
First, pull it apart. Do this with a pick ax, shovels and any other instrument which is strong enough to break apart the sometimes really hard soil which can be the foundation of any one mound. Be sure to dig down at least 2 feet and once the ground is open, fill it with as much loose dirt mixed with water that you can find. This slurry will penetrate deep regions and secret compartments which contain odors and scent which only serve to attract new gophers. By burying these smells along with the destruction of tunnels and burrows, you will minimize the likelihood of re-infestations. Be sure to not do this unless you are sure there are no active residents left in the den. If there are still some residing there, filling the holes will only make them that much more resilient and difficult to control.
Second, after the mound has been deconstructed, treat the ground with either the COYOTE URINE or PEST RID SPRAY listed above. Either repellent will send a strong signal to new animals entering the area. For a more permanent fix, place a SOLAR POWERED REPELLER in the middle of the den. This will keep new animals away indefinitely.
IN SUMMARY ^
Gophers are a nuisance to farmers, homeowners and just about any industry which relies on using the ground for growing plants or controlling water. Though persistent and prolific, there are ways to successfully control their populations where they are not wanted. If you have them close to your property and you want to keep them out, use some of the repellents listed above. Once established, you should apply some bait and set traps to remove the existing population. Though the bait will work quickly, if you have a lot of animals in the area you are treating trapping will probably be needed. Choose a kill trap or a live trap and make a good set for best results. Once the current population has been controlled install some of the repellents to help keep new ones from entering the vacant territory. Though small and timid, this rodent can cause a lot of damage to your land, turf and plants so be sure to get control of them before they get control of you!!!
CONTACT US ^
Give us a call if you need further help. Our toll free is 1-800-877-7290 and we’re open Monday through Thursday, 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM. On Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM and on Saturday, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time).
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