To get rid of gophers you will need to use various methods including traps, baits, and gasses. The methods you use will depend on the number of gophers, the composition of your soil, and your unique circumstances. With the right equipment and a fair amount of persistence, you can rid your lawn of gophers.
When we moved into our new home, I quickly realized that I had a battle on my hands. A war against an unseen foe has been waged. A foe that strikes quickly, leaves a pile of dirt, and disappears. I credit my wife with most of the techniques in this guide and to her I devote this site. Nothing says true love like devoting a site about killing gophers to someone.
How To Get Rid Of Gophers – Step 1: Know Your Enemy
The first step in getting rid of gophers from your lawn is to know as much about them as possible. Our site will be dealing with the common pocket gopher of North America. They are called “pocket” gophers because of their large cheeks that they use to carry food back to the storage areas of their burrows.
Pocket gophers are typically between 6 and 8 inches long, have short brown fur, and short tails which they use for feeling their way around tunnel systems when crawling backwards. The typical lifespan of a pocket gopher is 1 to 3 years .
Gophers generally breed in late winter or early spring but it is not unlikely for them to breed throughout the year. In ideal conditions they can produce up to as many as 3 litters in a year with each litter having about 5 or 6 young.
One thing that might surprise you is that gophers typically live alone in their own tunnel systems except when mating. Gophers are hoarders and can keep large stores of food in their burrows. A male may connect burrows with a female for mating but will go back to solitary tunnel dwelling shortly after the litter is born.
Sources: Pocket Gopher on Wikipedia
Gopher Tunnels And Mounds
Gopher tunnel systems can easily cover 2,000 square feet and be hundreds of feet in length. Male gophers are territorial and can have up to 8 tunnel systems at once. The main lateral tunnel they use for feeding is around 6 inches to a foot deep. 2 or 3 feet deep they have a secondary tunnel system where they have larger pockets for nests, food, and waste. The above graphic is a very compacted representation of what a section of gopher tunnel system might look like. It could easily only represent one tenth of a single gopher’s home.
Gophers eat roots of plants beneath the surface. Once the root system has been weakened enough by their nibbling, they will pull the plant underground. Gophers will also surface just enough to forage immediately surrounding plants to take back to their food storage.
Gopher mounds are the gophers way of removing dirt from their tunnels. After digging the surface access tunnel they will push excess dirt out of the hole like a bulldozer. To keep snakes and other predators from entering, they will plug the hole up. They will often compact the plug so securely that you can not easily find the access hole if you move the dirt away.
How To Get Rid Of Gophers – Step 2: The Attack
The area I am fighting to reclaim from gophers is approximately one square acre. Once the winter snow melted off the pests started creating mounds all over the field. I have worked hard to get pasture grass to overtake the once weed ridden field and I’m not going to sit and watch it get torn up. This is war.
First I will state that I don’t use any poison bait to kill gophers. Sometimes my chickens or dog venture out into the field and I would not want them to somehow ingest poison bait or a poisoned gopher. The weapons of choice for me are gas “bombs” and box traps.
How to get rid of gophers with traps:
The best confirmed kill rate easily goes to the The Black Box Gopher Trap by Victor (click here to see prices). Gopher trapping season is still early this spring but The Black Box has already caught 4 females and 2 very large males. These traps are much larger and stronger than wire claw traps. Every catch has been a kill. I’ve never had to finish the job. You don’t need to tie a string to them and stake them down because there’s no way a gopher could pull the box further down into the tunnel in the off chance it didn’t kill one.
When I set these I like to remove all of the mounded dirt and dig out the hole enough to set the trap in flush with the tunnel. Since the hole opens up into a lateral tunnel you will have better results placing a trap facing both directions. If you only have one trap, you will be taking a 50/50 chance on which direction the gopher will be coming from. If you check the trap later and there is a fresh mound that buried your trap then you know it came from the other direction. Dig the hole back out and place the trap facing the other direction. For best results you will want to use one trap for each direction.
I place a bucket over the set trap so that no daylight can be seen. I want the gopher to go about his business and not be suspicious of light coming through an area it knows it had previously plugged up.
Here is The Black Box Gopher Trap with a smaller male victim. It may be difficult to tell from the picture, but the bar snaps up from underneath the gopher when it triggers the release. This unfortunate gopher took it right in the mouth. 90% of the time it usually catches them right behind the front legs.
For my method on placing the smaller pincher traps, see How To Place Gopher Traps.
How to get rid of gophers with gas bombs:
I will preface by saying that when gassing gophers it is harder to tell if it was effective. You just have to wait and see if new mounds emerge in the area or not. Even if you don’t get a kill with gas bombs, they can still be beneficial. I’ll explain below.
The Blown Gas Method
The blown gas method involves sticking a gas bomb in the gopher hole and then blowing the the gas through the rest of the tunnel with a vacuum output or leaf blower. I use the The Giant Destroyer gas bombs on my tunnels.
Light your gas bomb and stick it in the gopher hole like normal. Stick your leaf blower (or shop vac) in the hole right behind the burning gas bomb. The smoke will get blown through the tunnel system. You may want to use several bombs back to back so that the smoke fills up as much volume of the tunnel system as possible.
One great aspect of this technique is that the smoke will seep through the ground which will expose tunnel locations. You can easily spot smoke coming out of the ground 20 feet or more from the hole that you’re gassing. Use something to mark where the smoke is seen. Once the smoke stops, you can excavate the tunnels and place a trap in them.
You will want to stock up on a few good economical pinch traps to place in all the tunnels you find after gassing. If there was a survivor, you’ll have the advantage by placing several traps in one tunnel system. Pictured here is the Victor Easy Set Gopher Trap (click here to see prices). They are sold in two packs and are smaller which means you don’t have to excavate as much to place them. Some males are large enough to only be wounded by these smaller traps. It is advised to tie a string to the trap and stake it down so the trap doesn’t get pulled down into the tunnel.
The method above has been very effective for us. So far this spring we have already trapped
6 7 gophers. We will update this page with any new techniques we find that are effective. If you have your own favorite tips you would like to share, feel free to tell us below.