Pocket Gophes are a cute creatures that will destroy your yard! There are no kinds of plantings safe from them. Here’s what you need to know about controlling and dealing with pocket gopher infestations.
Depending on the species, they are 6 to 10 inches long, with stout bodies and large front teeth.
For the most part, gophers remain underground in their burrow system, although you’ll sometimes see them feeding at the edge of an open burrow, pushing dirt out of a burrow, or moving to a new area.
One gopher can create several mounds in a day. They’re active year-round, around the clock. They have 1-3 litters per year, of about 5-6 young each. Pocket gophers will eat almost anything that grows from the ground: herbaceous plants, shrubs, ornamental plants, vines, and trees, eating roots, the fleshy parts of plants, the bark of trees, and can pull entire plants underground from beneath. They can quickly do tremendous damage to gardens, orchards, vineyards, and agricultural areas. Gophers also gnaw and damage plastic water lines and lawn sprinkler systems. Their tunnels can divert and carry off irrigation water, which leads to soil erosion. Mounds on lawns interfere with mowing equipment and ruin the aesthetics of well-kept turf grass.
To protect existing plantings, bury hardware cloth or 3/4-inch mesh poultry wire at least 2 feet deep with an additional 6 inches of mesh or wire bent at a 90-degree angle away from the planting. This will help keep gophers from digging around the fencing boundary. Also extend the fencing at least 1 foot aboveground to deter gophers moving overland. This method is not perfect, however, because persistent gophers can burrow below the wire; also, the wire can restrict and damage root growth of trees. Underground fencing might be justified for valuable ornamental shrubs or landscape trees.
You can protect small areas such as flower beds by complete underground screening of the bed’s sides and bottoms. When constructing raised vegetable or flower beds, underlay the soil with wire to exclude gophers. To protect individual plants, install wire baskets, which you can make at home or buy commercially, at the same time you are putting the plants into the ground. If you use wire, use one that is light gauge and only for shrubs and trees that will need protection while young. Leave enough room to allow for the roots to grow. Galvanized wire provides the longest-lasting protection.
Six to eight inches of coarse gravel underneath buried irrigation lines should deter pocket gophers; the gravel trick is good to use when you bury fences underground, too, to deter them from burrowing into sensitive areas.
Trapping Pocket Gophers
Gophers have two kinds of burrows: main burrows and shallow lateral burrows. Successful trapping depends on accurately locating the gopher’s main burrow. To do this, you need to use a gopher probe. Probes are commercially available, or you can construct one from a pipe and metal rod. Probes made from dowels or sticks work in soft soil but are difficult to use in hard or dry soils. An enlarged tip that is wider than the shaft of the probe makes burrow-hunting easier.
First, look for fresh mounds of dirt. You can find the main burrow by probing about 8 to 12 inches from the plug side of the mound; it usually is located 6 to 12 inches deep. When the probe penetrates the gopher’s burrow, there will be a sudden, noticeable drop of about 2 inches. You might have to probe repeatedly to locate the gopher’s main burrow, but your skill will improve with experience. Because the gopher might not revisit lateral tunnels, trapping and baiting them is not as successful as in the main burrow.
Check traps often – at least daily – and reset when necessary. If you haven’t captured a gopher within 2 days, reset the traps in a different location.
What to Look for in an Animal Control Company
If you decide you want to leave all this work to the pros, you want the animal control company to be completely knowledgeable of all relevant laws and regulations regarding trapping, removal, relocation of live animals, and whether any of the pest animals have protected or endangered status. You want them to hold all applicable state and local licenses, and they should be completely happy to show you documentation of this. Ditto for insurance. They should be experienced in dealing with the animal of concern. If you look to the left, there’s a list of local contacts for you to call for quick, efficient, and professional animal control services.