Gophers Digging Up Your Backyard? Tips That Can Help

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, Jan 21, 2019 @ 02:05 PM

Gophers Digging Up Your Backyard? Tips That Can Help

plantingGophers are a major nuisance for farmers, orchard owners, and homeowners across California. One gopher will dig several holes and a burrow system that is between 200 and 2,000 feet in length. 

Learn more about gophers, including how to identify them, how to keep them out, and how to safely remove them from your property.


Learn About Gophers

The most common type of pocket gopher (called gopher for short) found in California is the Botta's pocket gopher. Pocket gophers get their name from the small cheek pockets in which they store dirt while digging. These rodents are roughly six inches to just over a foot in length and are brown in color. Males are typically larger than females.

Botta's pocket gopher only comes out of its extensive burrow system when eating. Watch for pocket gophers near the entrance of burrows.

Pocket gophers eat almost anything that grows in the ground, including plants, grass, trees, shrubs, and vegetables, although they prefer roots and tubers because these grow underground. Gophers also dine on grubs, small insects, and worms.

Gophers are a nuisance not only because they dig unsightly holes on your property but also because their burrows impact soil erosion by disrupting your lawn's natural irrigation. Your backyard vegetable garden is vulnerable to damage. Any vegetables that grow underground, including carrots, potatoes, and radishes, are especially at risk.

Gophers gnaw through plastic, including your sprinkler system or plastic water lines, when creating their burrows.


Identify Signs of a Gopher Infestation

Watch for small mounds of dirt featuring holes shaped like the letter u. Gophers leave holes open so that they can easily eat nearby grass and vegetation. Once the vegetation near the hole is gone, the gophers plug the hole with dirt. 

Check for damage or chew marks on the base of trees or shrubs, especially near dirt mounds. Gophers do not travel far beyond their holes to find vegetation. If your sprinkler or irrigation system is functioning improperly, carefully dig around the pipes and check for damage or chew marks.

Underground electrical and utility lines are vulnerable to gopher damage as well. 


Prevent Gophers From Destroying Your Backyard Garden and Ornamentals

Keeping gophers out of your entire yard and property is difficult, especially since gopher burrows can reach depths of six feet underground. Instead, concentrate on smaller areas that you want to protect from gopher damage, including your backyard garden, ornamentals, and other expensive foliage. Erect a fence around these areas that is buried 18 inches to 2 feet underground.

Contact a pest-control agent before using chemical or homemade deterrents, such as castor oil or peppermint oil. Many store-bought deterrents contain toxic chemicals that can harm you, your children, and pets. Homemade deterrents aren't typically effective and, depending upon the product you use, could be harmful to your lawn, foliage, and pets.

Visual, biological, and audible frightening devices, such as predator decoys and motion-activated sprinklers, are often ineffective because the gophers are accustomed to the loud noises and commotion of a typical backyard.


Eliminate Gophers From Your Backyard

According to California law, gophers are classified as nongame animals. If gophers are destroying your crops, backyard garden, lawn, or any other foliage on your property and this destruction is costing you money, you have the legal right to eliminate the gophers in a safe manner. In California, you do not need to acquire a trapping license if you are not profiting from the trapping and sale of the gopher.

Trapping is a safe and effective option for homeowners. However, because gophers create an intricate burrowing system in your backyard, you may not be able to determine which burrow the gopher is using. Leaving the baiting and trapping of gophers to the professionals is the best option because they have the skills and tools necessary to locate the gophers and safely remove them from your property.

Toxic baits are available that can effectively control gophers. The most common contains strychnine alkaloid, a dangerous poison that will kill the gophers within one hour after consumption. These types of products should be handled and used by a professional as well.

Commercially available toxic baits are dangerous to other animals on your property, including your pets and wild animals that could be protected by California law.

You should also avoid flooding the burrows with water unless this method is recommended by a professional. Placing a garden hose into a burrow to drive out the gophers is often ineffective because it loosens the soil, making it easier for gophers to dig through the ground.

Gophers are a common nuisance animal in California that can wreak havoc on your lawn, trees, shrubs, and backyard garden. If you have any more questions or suspect that you have gophers on your property, contact the professionals at Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, Inc.