Gophers can be a significant nuisance in your yard, causing extensive damage to plants and creating unsightly tunnels. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore effective methods to get rid of gophers and prevent them from coming back, by understanding their behavior, implementing prevention measures, using natural repellents, and employing trapping techniques.
Table of Contents
Understanding Gopher Behavior and Damage
Gophers are burrowing rodents that spend most of their lives underground. They create complex tunnel systems that can extend up to 2,000 square feet. These tunnels serve multiple purposes, including providing shelter, nesting sites, and access to food sources. Gophers are solitary animals, with each individual occupying its own burrow system, except during the breeding season.
These rodents are territorial and will actively defend their burrow systems against intruders. They are most active during the early morning and late afternoon, although they can be active throughout the day. Gophers have a relatively short lifespan of 1 to 3 years in the wild.
What Do Gophers Eat?
Gophers primarily feed on the roots, bulbs, and tubers of various plants, trees, and shrubs. They also consume a variety of vegetables, fruits, and grasses. In some cases, they might eat small insects and worms. They use their sharp teeth and powerful front legs to dig through the soil and reach their food sources.
Some plants that gophers find particularly attractive include:
- Sweet potatoes
Understanding their dietary preferences can help you modify your garden and landscape to make it less appealing to gophers.
What Does a Gopher Look Like?
Gophers are small rodents that range in size from 6 to 12 inches long, including their short, hairless tails. They have stout bodies covered in soft, brown or grayish fur. Their heads are small and flattened, with large, rounded cheeks that can store food while they forage.
Gophers have small, beady eyes and tiny ears, which are adapted for their subterranean lifestyle. Their long, sharp front teeth (incisors) are used for gnawing on roots and other plant material. They have powerful front legs and large, curved claws that are well-suited for digging and creating their burrow systems.
By understanding what gophers eat and what they look like, you can better identify their presence in your yard and take appropriate measures to deal with them.
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Gophers can cause significant damage to yards, gardens, and landscaping due to their burrowing and feeding habits. Some of the most common types of damage caused by gophers include:
- Tunneling: The extensive tunnel systems created by gophers can lead to soil erosion and cause the ground to become uneven or collapse. This can make walking or mowing the lawn difficult and can be hazardous, especially for children and the elderly.
- Plant Damage: Gophers feed on the roots, bulbs, and tubers of various plants, which can result in the death of the plants. They can also damage trees and shrubs by gnawing on their roots, which can weaken the plants and make them susceptible to disease or other pests.
- Garden and Crop Loss: Gophers can cause substantial damage to vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and flower beds by consuming the plants or damaging their root systems. In agricultural settings, gophers can reduce crop yields and cause significant economic losses.
- Irrigation Damage: Gophers can damage underground irrigation systems, such as pipes and drip lines, by gnawing on them or by burrowing through the soil and causing the systems to collapse.
- Unsightly Mounds: Gophers create mounds of excavated soil on the surface of the ground, which can make your yard look unkempt and unattractive. These mounds can also smother grass and other plants.
By understanding gopher behavior and the types of damage they cause, you can better assess the extent of the problem in your yard and take appropriate measures to control these pests.
Prevention Measures for Gophers
1. Remove Food Sources
Eliminate the gophers’ preferred food sources, such as bulbs, roots, and tubers, to discourage them from settling in your yard. Replace these plants with gopher-resistant varieties or consider planting them in raised beds or containers.
2. Maintain a Clean Yard
Regularly mow your lawn and remove debris, such as fallen leaves and branches, to minimize hiding places for gophers. This will make your yard less attractive to these rodents and reduce the chances of an infestation.
3. Install Physical Barriers
Bury wire mesh or hardware cloth at least 2 feet deep and extend it about 6 inches above the ground around the perimeter of your garden to prevent gophers from digging in. You can also line the bottom of raised beds or planters with a layer of hardware cloth to protect plants’ roots from gophers.
4. Use Plants as Natural Deterrents
Plant gopher-resistant plants, such as daffodils, marigolds, or lavender, to deter these pests. These plants contain compounds that are unpleasant to gophers, making them less likely to infest your garden.
Effective Natural Gopher Repellents
1. Castor Oil
Mix 2 tablespoons of castor oil with 1 tablespoon of dish soap and 1 gallon of water. Spray the solution around the affected areas and near gopher burrow openings to repel gophers. Reapply the mixture every two weeks or after heavy rain.
2. Garlic and Pepper
Crush several garlic cloves and mix with 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes. Sprinkle the mixture around your garden, focusing on areas where you’ve noticed gopher activity. Replace the garlic and pepper mixture every two weeks or after rain.
3. Predator Urine
Using predator urine, such as from coyotes or foxes, can help scare gophers away. Apply the urine around the perimeter of your yard and near gopher burrows to create a scent barrier that makes gophers think predators are nearby. Reapply predator urine every 10-14 days or after heavy rainfall to maintain its effectiveness.
Trapping Gophers Successfully
1. Locate Active Tunnels
Look for fresh mounds of dirt or raised ridges in your yard to identify active gopher tunnels. You can also use a probe or a long screwdriver to locate the main tunnel by pushing it into the ground near the mound. When you find a tunnel with less resistance, that’s likely an active one.
2. Choose the Right Trap
Purchase a gopher trap designed specifically for these rodents, such as a box trap or cinch trap. Box traps are placed inside the tunnel, while cinch traps are set at the tunnel entrance. Each trap has its benefits, so choose one that best suits your situation and preference.
3. Set the Trap
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly set the trap in the active tunnel. For box traps, dig a small hole in the tunnel, insert the trap, and cover the opening with a piece of cardboard or plywood to block light. For cinch traps, insert the jaws of the trap into the tunnel opening and secure it with a stake.
4. Check the Trap Regularly
Monitor the trap daily to see if you’ve caught a gopher. If successful, remove the gopher and reset the trap as needed. Continue trapping until there’s no more evidence of gopher activity.
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Why are gophers bad for your yard?
Gophers are detrimental to your yard because they create extensive underground tunnel systems, which can cause soil erosion and damage the roots of plants, trees, and shrubs. They also leave unsightly mounds of excavated soil on the surface, which can make your yard look unkempt.
What do gophers hate the most?
Gophers detest strong smells, such as castor oil, garlic, and predator urine. They are also repelled by certain plants, like daffodils, marigolds, and lavender, which contain compounds that are unpleasant to gophers. Physical barriers like wire mesh or hardware cloth can also deter them.
What time of day do gophers come out?
Gophers are most active during the early morning and late afternoon, although they can be active throughout the day. They tend to avoid coming out during the hottest part of the day to conserve energy and protect themselves from predators.
Do gophers eventually go away?
Gophers may eventually move on if their food sources become scarce or if they feel threatened by predators. However, simply waiting for them to leave is not a reliable method for dealing with gopher infestations. It is better to take proactive measures, such as implementing prevention strategies, using natural repellents, or employing trapping techniques.
How many gophers live in a hole?
Gophers are solitary animals, so typically, only one gopher will occupy a burrow system. However, during the breeding season, a male and female gopher may share a burrow temporarily. Once the young are born, they will stay in the burrow for a few weeks before leaving to establish their own territories.
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By following the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you can effectively manage gopher infestations and prevent these pests from causing damage to your yard and garden. Remember that persistence is key when dealing with gophers, as they can be stubborn and may require multiple attempts to remove them completely.