Getting rid of gophers in my yard

What works and what doesn’t to get rid of pocket gophers

gophers in my yardI’m declaring war on gophers. They’ve been going to town in my backyard long enough. In fact, it’s been going on for decades on this property. For years my dad used traps to kill them, but that’s pretty gross and not something I can do. And they come back eventually.

After my dad was gone my mom took over. She would flood the holes for days hoping to drive them into the open. Sometimes one would pop out, wet and disoriented, and she would spear it with a garden tool. Again gross, and a disturbing picture of my mother.

My mom’s gopher spear

gopher spear

Gopher spear

So now it’s my turn. I’ve put poison into their tunnels. I might not see them for a while but then they’re back. I’ve also had success a couple of times putting dry ice down the hole (it releases odorless carbon dioxide and they die). But the last time it didn’t work and I wasted $8 for nothing.

Identifying pocket gophers

Gopher tunnel in my backyard

Pocket gophers can cause property damage and physical injury

gopher tunnel in my yard

Gopher tunnel in my yard

Digging down just a few inches reveals a gopher tunnel. Tunnels can be as long as 800 feet. This one goes underneath the concrete walkway.

Besides the appearance of unsightly mounds, gopher tunneling weakens the ground. Sometimes the ground can cave in, causing injury to people and animals. Concrete and other structures such as pools can be undermined to the point where they collapse. I’m concerned this might happen to my walkway.

Gopher feeder hole

pocket gopher feeder hole

Pocket gopher feeder hole

Besides creating large mounds of dirt in the yard, gophers also leave these feeder holes. This is where the gopher has tunneled over to a tempting patch of vegetation and pulled the plants in by the roots. Then it backfills the hole leaving a round circle of dirt.

I’ve actually seen this in progress as blades of grass disappear into the ground. The gopher is able to feed without ever coming out into the open.

Other gopher control methods

I’ve heard that putting Juicy Fruit gum in their tunnel will kill them if they eat it. Don’t believe it. I tried that and when I came outside later, they had pushed the gum out of the hole and it was sitting on top of a nice fresh pile of dirt. A dollar wasted.

One method I would love to try is to sic a gopher-eating snake on them. The thought of a pesky gopher being devoured by a snake gives me more pleasure than I should probably admit. No doubt it would be successful but then I’d be left with a snake in my yard!

Another thing I’ve heard about is this tool called a Rodenator that blows up their tunnels and kills them. Also a very satisfying thought but it can backfire, literally.

Stop feeding the gophers

gophers systematically eating my lawn

Gophers systematically eating my lawn

Lately I’ve been passive-aggressive. A couple of months ago I stopped watering the lawn they’ve been feasting on. Unfortunately, we’ve had some rain and now green shoots are popping up again, along with some new gopher holes. But I think I’m on to something. The only way to get rid of the gophers forever is to get rid of their food. I have a plan. Stay tuned and I will be sharing that with you soon.

Update: February 2014

A couple of days after publishing this, the gopher started going after a small patch of green grass. So I dug up the rest of it myself (the gardener must think I’m crazy) and I haven’t seen the gopher since. He must have gone to look for greener pastures. Even so, I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of them because they always come back.

I’m planning on getting rid of the lawn they find so irresistible, replacing it with trees and shrubs, and possibly surrounding the perimeter with wire mesh installed below ground. A drastic solution for sure, but I’m not that keen on grass anyway. I’d much rather have a garden full of flowering bushes, raised beds and a nice little patio to sit and enjoy the view.

Protect your yard from gophers

How to get rid of gophers for good

I’ve learned that you can protect your yard by installing a gopher fence underground all around the outside boundary. This would be feasible for anyone with a small to average yard.

What you do is get wire mesh called hardware cloth which runs about 24″ tall. Then you need to dig a trench 24″ deep using a pick. Hard work for sure, but a great way to work off your frustration with destructive gophers. And when it’s finished, no more gophers.

Update: April 2014

In April I began removing all the grass from my backyard. Guess what, I haven’t seen a gopher since! I’m making room for a new urban garden with concrete pavers and gravel. As an added bonus, I’ll be saving money by not having to water the lawn anymore.

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