Your yard is your pride and joy. You take great care in mowing and watering your lawn. You strike the right balance of trees, shrubs, and flowers when designing your garden. And you've mastered when to prune, fertilize, and mulch the plants on your property.
So when you spot suspicious mounds near your hydrangeas or unsightly ridges near your driveway, you can't help but feel frustrated at the damage. Naturally, you want to remove the source as quickly as possible.
But before you take matters into your own hands, take a few minutes to identify whether you have a gopher or a mole tearing into your yard. These commonly confused pests require different removal and trapping methods. If you use the wrong technique or product, you may cause even more damage to your yard and leave it vulnerable to future infestations.
Here are the easiest ways to spot the difference between a gopher and a mole.
Both gophers and moles spend a great deal of time underground, so you might not catch a good look at either of your furry invaders. However, if you do happen to glance their way, you'll quickly notice the following features.
Moles have pointed, hairless muzzles and potato-shaped bodies. Their eyes are tiny, and at a distance, moles look like they don't have any eyes at all. They do not have any external ears, and their fur completely covers their ear canals. Moles also have large, broad forefeet, and they use their webbed toes like flippers as they swim through the soil.
Gophers have bulging cheeks and rounded snouts that end in prominent teeth. They have flat heads and stocky bodies. Though they have small eyes and ears, you can usually distinguish these facial features from the rest of their fur. Gophers have long claws on their forefeet that help them dig and push through the soil.
Even if you never see the moles or gophers in your yard, you can still identify the pest based on the damage they cause in your yard. Although gophers and moles dig tunnels, each one uses a different technique to build their home and search for food.
When moles aren't foraging for food, they excavate their tunnels by pushing dirt straight above them. If their tunnels are close to the surface, they'll create conical, volcano-shaped mounds. Although molehills vary in size, most of them will have a uniform appearance.
Oftentimes, mole tunnels stay close to a solid object, so look for ridges and trails near your driveway, lawn border, or house foundation. These surface tunnels have little or no support from the surrounding soil, so they'll collapse if you step on them.
Gophers dig deeper than moles, creating tunnels and homes nearly six feet under the soil. As a result, you likely won't see any surface ridges or trails in your yard. When gophers exit to seek a mate or find food, they come to the surface at an angle, creating an irregular fan- or crescent-shaped mound. To prevent predators from invading their tunnels, gophers plug the hole at the top.
As gopher tunnels tend to be quite deep, the surrounding soil will lend structure and support to the holes. If you step on the mounds, they likely won't collapse as readily as molehills.
If you're still not sure whether you have a gopher or a mole digging through your yard, you can use the following details to identify your pest.
Moles are insectivores, and they'll eat over half of their body weight in bugs and grubs daily. Consequently, many moles will focus on eating the most insects possible and leave your plants alone. But due to the nature of their digging, moles can damage plant roots by creating air pockets around the plants, and more delicate flowers and plants will often die as a result.
If you see holes in the shadier, moist areas of your lawn (where insects often thrive), you may have a mole on your property.
Gophers, in contrast, are strict vegetarians. They'll mostly feed on underground plant roots, though they will also nibble on new buds, leaves, and surface vegetation during the spring and summer months. Sometimes gophers will drag entire plants underground, and they'll quickly trim down any vegetation near their holes and mounds.
If you see wilting or dead plants in your garden, you likely have a gopher.
Do You Spot Either in Your Garden?
Once you know the difference between moles and gophers, you can take steps to remove either pest from your yard. Reach out to a pest control expert to discuss possible trapping and removal methods.
If you find that gophers and moles frequent your yard each year, don't hesitate to ask about landscaping techniques and prevention as well. You may need to reduce the insect population in your yard to avoid attracting moles, or you might need to use chicken wire baskets to protect your plants from gophers.