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Jan 8 / Jeff

How To Control Pocket Gophers

Pocket gophers in a suburban backyard? That’s right. Ever since I have been living in my current home, I have been dealing with them. Unfortunately, the community I live in used to be a large farm, so we had some stragglers when we moved in. Fortunately, they only bother my garden maybe one month out of the year. However, when they do make it into my garden, they end up doing a lot of damage, eating my vegetables and creating those annoying mounds of soil.

In the past, I have tried everything from poison pellets, Shake-Away (coyote urine), chewing gum, and even flooding their tunnels. It has been pretty quiet for the past year, so I figured they were done… until last week when I found this in my garden:

Frustrating. Helpless. I was already starting to write off my winter crop of vegetables, as the gopher took out some spinach, lettuce, and snow peas. I had some cauliflower and broccoli starting to flower, and a bunch of kale that was starting to get big. Forget it all, since there is nothing I could do to stop it.

That is, until I found this at my local hardware store:

For about $11, I could stop the destruction and have visible proof that it would all be over. It sounded too easy, but I was willing to give it a try. After scouring the Internet for instructions and other peoples’ experiences, I went to work. First, I had to start with a fresh tunnel and dig my way to the main tunnel:

So you can see, I have some more digging to do, since I haven’t reached the main tunnel yet…

Ok, so now I finally found the main tunnel, since you can see it branches in 2 directions (left and right). This is where you will set the traps.

Notice how I have string tied to each one. Some people have noted it’s important to do this in case the gopher gets caught and tries to run away with the trap. I tied the string to a small stake just to be sure. Now when setting the traps, make sure you always use two traps and place them in opposite directions. This is done since you may not know which direction the gopher is coming from. You can’t see it here, but I also smeared a small bit of peanut butter on the strike plate, as that seems to work for many people. Finally, you need to cover this up:

I used cardboard and covered the entire area. Then, I used nearby soil to cover up the edges. Make sure to cover it well. Basically, you don’t want any light to make it down there. Otherwise, the gopher will think something is wrong and then it will try to push dirt up. This will foil any attempt to trap it. Now, it’s time to be patient. I have heard stories of people catching gophers in less than an hour after setting the traps. I decided to play it safe and wait 24 hours. When I removed the cardboard the next day, I found this:

I know some of you will say that I am mean and cruel to animals. Let me tell you this. You try putting hundreds of hours into maintaining a vegetable garden and have this thing ruin it all in just a matter of days. Let’s just say I was pretty happy to know that my plants won’t be terrorized anymore.

This was probably the best $11 spent.

4 Comments

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  1. Dawn / Feb 9 2012

    Hooray for you! I went through an infestation of Norway rats here in Pasadena, CA last summer – they were eating at least 20 cherry tomatoes off the plants very night. There’s nothing like the victory of taking back your garden! Great tutorial as I do also have something leaving holes that look alot like your pictures

  2. Roger / May 9 2014

    For those opposed to poisoning (not a fan myself as I would imagine it being a horrible way to die, and I don’t want to poison other creatures) or opposed to trapping or where trapping may be illegal, you can place an aluminum dryer hose into the hole, fill in any other holes you can find, place the other end of the hose to the tailpipe of the jeep/car/truck and idle for 10-20 minutes while singing your favorite lullaby.

    A tight seal on the tailpipe is not recommended as it would place additional backpressure on the exhaust system and potentially cause your vehicle to stall out and/or cause your check engine light to come on as well.

    On a side note, as I understand it, moles eat grubs and are potentially beneficial in the sense that they aerate the soil as well.

  3. Lois Lawrence / Nov 20 2017

    I am new to Arizona and want to plant a semi dwarf Valencia orange tree and semi dwarf pink grapefruit tree, but we are gone June-Sept each year. Will I be able to keep these alive when gone if I have only a drip system in place for watering in the summer heat? Thanks Lois

    • Nayeli / Jun 20 2018

      A drip system works great as long as it doesn’t fail while you’re gone.

      The winter would be my concern depending on the location in Arizona. My winter sometime drops too low and citrus trees will freeze.

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