Gopher Removal and Control

Gophers and Prairie Dogs are usually classified as a pest species due to their tunneling habits. They form large colonies, and a large network of underground tunnels. The most common complaints include the following:

  • Landscape destruction
  • Holes pose risk to horses or ankles
For these reasons, many people wish to have nuisance gopher trapped and removed.

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Gopher removal methods - Gophers are not to be confused with groundhogs. Most people interchange the two animals, but a gopher problem can be much more serious than a groundhog problem. Gophers, or prairie dogs as they are known in the western states, live in substantial communities and can have burrow systems that stretch over a hundred acres. A group of these creatures may not necessarily be that extensive in every situation, but chances are a gopher issue is going to be serious. This is not just one little critter living under your shed. If you’ve seen a gopher under one of your outbuildings or under your home, you’d better believe that there is an immense system of tunnels spreading around your property. The structural integrity of your home is in jeopardy, and any livestock you have can be prone to injury if a tunnel collapses. Farm equipment is also at risk of damage due to cave-ins.

You can’t get rid of gophers by filling in their holes. These animals burrow for the majority of their lives, and a filled burrow will just result in more digging. There are no approved poisons for gophers, and chemical deterrents are largely ignored. Gophers rely more on sight than on smell, though they would not ignore a suspicious smell. Predator urine sprays, moth balls, and other manufactured deterrents do not have any effect on gophers. Mothballs end up being more toxic to you since you have to buy and handle them. If a gopher is exposed to predator urine, the animal will be alert and wary but will not be suddenly inclined to leave its network of tunnels. Most gopher communities post sentries around their underground cities. These sentries will look for visual indications of a predator, and will then communicate that predator’s location and species back to the rest of the rodent community. If pressed, the gophers will retreat back into their burrows. The fact that most of their lives are spent underground makes discouraging gophers very difficult.

A gopher in your yard is something that should be dealt with as soon as possible to minimize the damage done by continued tunneling and expansion. You do not want your rodent issue to develop into the type of gopher community that serves over a hundred creatures. This animal needs to be trapped—and fast! You can read more detailed information about gopher trapping techniques here.

Depending on your inclinations and the area where you live, you can select a lethal trap or a live trap. Lethal, body gripping traps are available for gophers, and may be a wise choice when dealing with a large population. You can trap gophers in cage traps and then relocate them, but this can be a very time-consuming task if your house is on the edge of a huge gopher city. Lethal or non-lethal, traps can be set by digging into one of the burrow networks and setting the trap along the traveled route. Cover the hole back up with sod and monitor daily. It is very difficult for an amateur trapper to know when all the gophers have been successfully removed. Knowledge of the animal’s living habits and family size is vital to effective removal. Gophers may live in communities, but they are often separated into family groups. Sometimes the group is the only thing that needs to be removed and not the entire population.

Some farmers have found success in crop rotation for gopher control. Plants and crops with poor root systems will not support a gopher through the cold winter months. These little creatures need to build up fat stores, and they rely heavily on the vegetation surrounding them. With a poor source of nutrition, many gophers do not make it through a winter cycle. Poor quality food will certainly dissuade new gophers from moving in.

It may not be reasonable to take on a gopher city by yourself. If you home and property are being affected, consider removing the gophers in your immediate area rather than exterminating the entire community. Because such a large quantity of animals can be involved, seek professional help before things get out of hand.


Gophers are small squirrel-like subterranean rodents that populate the North American continent. Gophers prefer the colder weather climates and fluctuating temperatures that are present in North America to the hot or stable weather patterns. The gopher is very small, rarely growing longer than a foot in length and only weigh up to two pounds. Gophers come in all colors but the common colors are gray and white back with a yellow and brown underbelly. They are most readily noticed by their big, puffy cheeks and long front teeth that are used for gnawing.

Gophers are considered as pests by most people living in North America because of the tunnels they dig underground. They can also leave large mounds of dirt on the surface of the ground by pushing dirt behind and upwards of where they are digging. Gophers will live anywhere where there are large amounts of space, usually down the middle and in the west part of North America known as the plains.

The Gopher rarely makes an appearance on the surface of the ground unless they are scouting out an area or hunting for food. The tunnels that gophers dig can stretch for miles, whereby they destroy any plant roots and have been known to collapse large sections of the landscape they occupy. The adult gophers live near the front of the tunnel openings with the younger gophers and the food storage dens near the middle of the enormous maze.

Gophers have an amazing sense of their surroundings by using their whiskers and tail to navigate the tunnels. When the soil is soft, a gopher can dig up to 300 feet in a single day as they have powerful claws that can dig and large teeth to chop up roots that are blocking the path. Gophers are antisocial and only meet with their own kind to mate. If two should meet in the same tunnel they will fight.

Gophers are herbivores meaning that they only eat plant materials. Their favorite foods are plant roots but they will also eat fruit, leaves and nuts. The gopher is a master hoarder and will store food in its stretchy cheeks until it can return to its den. Gophers have been known to store vast amounts of food to last them through the hibernating months. Some species of gopher do not hibernate, but other species begin their hibernation in late summer and wake up in the spring.

The average life span of a gopher is only 1-3 years due to the amount of predication. The natural predators of the gopher include large birds, dogs, owls, snakes, coyotes and humans. With odds like these it’s a wonder that they live even 3 years. Gophers are a favorite meal for any larger predator, but they are mainly killed by humans because they are considered pests for damaging property and carrying diseases.

Gophers mate in the spring every year outside of their tunnels. The female gopher has a gestation period of only 18 days and will have 3 or 4 young in a litter. Depending on the species and hibernation cycle, a female can have 1 or 2 litters a year making a total of 3 to 8 young per year. As you can see, gophers can reproduce very quickly and you could have a very big gopher problem very quickly.

You can read more about how to get rid of gophers or prairie dog removal here.

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