Gophers are small rodents that are found only in the Western hemisphere, mostly in North America. They dig extensive underground tunnels and spend most of their lives – eating and reproducing – there.
While gophers are an important part of the ecosystem, when their populations go out of control, they can be a real headache to homeowners and farmers alike. Their tunnels cause serious damage to properties all over America.
So, how can you get rid of gophers? You first have to understand how and why they behave the way they do in order to stay a step ahead of them.
How to get rid of gophers in your yard
Gophers have a good reason for being in your yard – food. These rodents are obligate herbivores, so any plants and/or fruits you have in your yard attract them. Their diet mainly consists of plant roots like grasses, carrots, dandelions, alfalfa, potatoes, and tulips.
Soil quality is also an important attractant for these rodents. Soils with a high moisture content like clay are perfect for them. They hate sandy soils because they easily cave in. Sand is also terrible at heat insulation compared to clay.
How to Tell If You Have Gophers in Your Yard
Gophers can be very destructive. So, here’s how to tell if you have gophers in your yard.
- Your garden and everything in in it is slowly falling apart
- Your agricultural equipment is slowly being destroyed…mysteriously.
- Your pipes and other underground utilities are suddenly going haywire
- Horseshoe shaped mounds of dirt above ground.
Probing for Gophers
Next, you need to probe for gophers. You can use gopher probes for this. They usually go for about $30 or less.
First, choose a mound with a sealed opening,
Then aim your probe a small distance from the mound’s seal. The burrow will run about 12 inches underground with a noticeable two-inch drop.
Getting Rid of Gophers For Good
To get rid of gophers, use one or more of these techniques:
- Strategically spread your pets’ poop in their tunnels. Dogs and cats are natural gopher predators, so when they smell your pet’s droppings, they’ll avoid going in that general direction.
- Set gopher traps, catch them and release them in a suitable area far from your or any other property. To find the appropriate size of traps you’ll need, use ones that match the diameter of the burrow holes in your garden.
- Use rodent repellents. They contain ingredients such as castor oil, traces of predator urine, among other chemicals in liquid or granule form. Repellents can be sprayed on plants and/ or directly into gopher burrows. Apart from repellents you can use these smells that gophers don’t like including tabasco sauce, fish, dryer sheets and mothballs.
- Secure your garden by planting plants that gophers hate like oleander, salvia, lavender, marigolds, catmint, gopher spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), rosemary, crown imperials. Plant these around the places in your garden you want to protect.
- If all the other strategies don’t work, poison them. But I wouldn’t advocate for this option because you might end up accidentally poisoning your pets, other innocent animals or even your family members. So your best bet at this point is to hire a professional to deal with the gopher infestation.
Keeping Gophers Away From Your Garden
- Use a sewage-based fertilizer. All you have to do is dig a shallow 12-inch-deep trench around the area you want to keep gophers away from, then fill the trench with the fertilizer and cover it up with soil. When it rains, the fertilizer will leach into the soil and repel the gophers.
- Use physical barriers. You can either use a fence, mulch or gravel, or gopher baskets. Wire mesh fences are effective as long as they extend about a foot underground.
- Use a spicy spray. Gophers have similar reactions to them as people do. Hot spices cause them difficulty in breathing and watery eyes, and they will try to avoid the source at all costs. You can make your own home-made spicy repellant by mixing some hot sauce with water or chopping up some chili peppers and soaking them in water. Pour this solution in a spray bottle and spray your plants and the ground.
- Pack the dirt in your yard using a lawn roller. This way, you’ll make it harder for the gophers to dig.
- Use castor oil and coffee grounds. Castor oil has an odor that gophers find foul. Pour some of it near gopher entrances and mix it into the dirt around your plants. Used coffee grounds are also just as effective when mixed into the dirt in your garden.
- Gophers are tiny rodents that are always constantly alert for new noises and scents. This makes them very easy to scare off. Simply get a decently-powered radio, seal it inside a plastic bag, then drop it into one of the burrow entrances. Play any type of music or radio show.
- Use raised plant beds. This is a cost-effective way to gopher proof your plants because it offers the plants the room they need to grow while making them less susceptible to gopher invasions.
- Introduce predator pets. Gophers are not dangerous to cats and dogs. Your pets will chase them off, and the smell of their fur and urine will make the gopher avoid your garden. However, keep in mind that gophers have ticks and fleas, so monitor your pets as they go after the gophers.
Are gophers dangerous?
Gophers are relatively harmless. They are not carriers of any significant zoonoses, even rabies. However, they are rodents and this means they can carry pathogens like leptospirosis, hantavirus, and plague.
They are also quite shy, and will always run and hide when approached. But do not corner them. When you do this, gophers will react by biting.
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