Tuesday, November 14, 2017 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Controlling Pocket Gophers

Controlling Pocket Gophers
Tom Ingram: Ask a Master Gardener

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Q: I’ve got these mounds of dirt appearing in my yard. Are these moles or gophers, and how do I get rid of them? GM
A: What you are describing are the mounds of excavated soil the pocket gopher pushes to the surface as they tunnel looking for food. The mounds are usually semicircular in shape, possibly 18-24 inches in diameter and about 6 inches high. The opening through which soil is pushed is finally plugged, which leaves the familiar small circular indention on one side of the mound.
Pocket gophers are members of the rodent family and get their name from their ability to carry food in fur-lined external cheek pouches. They have short legs, a stocky body and strong claws used for digging. Pocket gopher’s favorite foods include roots of trees, grass, seeds, leaves, tender stems, tubers and bulbs.
A single pocket gopher may make as many as 200 soil mounds in a year and are most active in the spring and fall. They are primarily solitary creatures, except during the breeding season and when young are present.
In large fields, we would encourage you to take no action toward your guests as they contribute to the formation and condition of the soil while providing food for larger predators. However, control may become necessary when they begin eating garden crops, roots of fruit trees and shrubs, etc.
While poison baits can be effective in eliminating pocket gopher populations, the danger these baits present to animals and humans usually suggest the use of traps.
The best way to trap pocket gophers is to locate the freshest mound of dirt. Oftentimes, the freshest mound is the darkest in color, as it is still moist. Several inches from the indention side of the mound, stick a probe into the soil 4 to 10 inches in depth to locate the tunnel.
Once located, dig an appropriate sized hole to allow access to the tunnel. Because it is hard to know which direction the gopher will come from, place two traps in the tunnel; one facing each direction.
Now, for an important tip. Always tie one end of a strong cord or wire to the trap and secure the other end to a piece of wood or brick on the surface as trapped gophers may take off down the tunnel with your trap in tow. This is a good way to lose a trap. Once your traps are secured, cover up the hole with a rock or a handful of grass to cut off most of the light, and wait.
Instinctively, pocket gophers will sense their tunnel has been compromised and attempt to fix the breach, which brings them to your trap. If you are not successful after a day or so, recover your traps, rake out the soil from the mounds over your yard, and keep an eye out for fresh mounds.
Garden tips
  • Apply dormant oil for scale-infested trees and shrubs before temperatures fall below 40 degrees. Follow label directions.
  • Continue to plant balled and burlapped trees.
  • Wrap young, thin-barked trees with a commercial protective material to prevent winter sunscald.


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