Pocket Gophers - What You Need to Know

Pocket gophers are rodents in the Geomyidae family. They are small to medium-sized and there is a variety of species. Pockets are approximately 15 to 35 cm in length and have very soft coats that vary from black to brown and some are almost white. They are borrowing animals and got their name from the fur-lined pouches outside their mouths. These pouches are used for collecting and moving food as well as nesting materials.

These burrowing animals are well-equipped with their powerful forequarters and large clawed front paws. They have fine short fur that will not cake in wet soils, they have small eyes and ears, and their facial whiskers are very sensitive to help them move around in the dark. The gopher's lips are adapted for their lifestyle, they can close their lips behind their four large incisor teeth to keep dirt out of their mouths when using their teeth for digging.

Pocket Gopher popping out of hole

Quick Summary

What are pocket gophers?
They are burrowing rodents that are small to medium sized. They are typically 15 to 35 centimeters long with soft black to brown colored coats.

How do you know if you have gophers?

The most likely sign you'll see are mounds of fresh soil on the surface of the ground, most pronounced in the spring and fall.

How do keep gophers out?
The best way is to reduce the food supply on your property that attracts them. You can also use various repellents or barriers such as gopher wire.

You Will Know If You Have Gophers

The best sign you have gophers are mounds of fresh soil they create when tunneling and pushing the soil to the surface. Usually, the mounds are crescent or horseshoe in shape when viewed from above. The hole is off to one side of the mound and is normally plugged in. In many cases, a Mole's mound can be mistaken for gopher mounds but mole mounds are more circular and have a plug in the middle that might not be seen and the overall mounds are volcano in shape. Unlike gophers, moles burrow just below the surface leaving a raised ridge that marks their path.

A gopher can create several mounds in the course of a day. The mounds are most pronounced during the spring and fall when the soil is moist and easy to dig. In irrigated areas such as flower beds, gardens, and lawns, digging conditions are excellent year-round and can appear at any given time. Gophers create burrows in the snow, leaving behind long earthen cores on the surface when the snow melts.

Gopher mounds

Holes in Yard from Gophers

Damage From Gophers

Pocket gophers live in what is called a burrow system that can cover an area from 200 to 2,000 sq ft in diameter. Feeding burrows are around 6 to 12 inches below the surface and the nest and food storage chamber can be as deep as 6 feet. Gophers seal the openings of the burrow system with plugs. Short, sloping tunnels will connect the main system to the surface. Gophers form these tunnels while pushing dirt to the surface to connect the main tunnel.

Use Gopher Wire To Keep Them Out

You can protect smaller areas such as flower beds by using a full-length underground screening of the plant's bedsides and bottoms. When creating raised vegetable or flower beds, place down the soil with wire to keep gophers out. Install wire baskets that you can buy or make at home when you are placing your plants in the ground. If you choose a wire, get one that is a light gauge and only for shrubs and trees to protect young growth. The opening size on the wire should be 3/4”. Leave enough room to allow roots to grow. Galvanized and stainless steel wire offers the longest-term protection.

Reduce The Supply Of Food For Gophers

You can reduce their food supply by using either chemicals or mechanical procedures to make lawns and gardens unattractive to gophers. Remove any weeds in areas next to a yard and garden to turn them into unfit dwellings.

Heavy-Duty Gopher Wire Mesh

Looking to keep gophers from your lawn or landscape area? Installing gopher wire mesh under your lawn or garden bed is the most effective your solution. Gopher Block is specifically designed for protection against gophers and is engineered for maximum in-ground longevity. Both our galvanized steel and stainless steel options last for years when buried in some of the harshest soils. Installing gopher wire is the most effective and humane way to deter gophers from your landscape and lawn areas.

View Gopher Wire Mesh
Gopher coming out of hole

Gopher Popping Out of Hole

Useless Ways For Keeping Gophers Out

There are several other ways to prevent gophers from bothering you and your garden but the best choice is a physical barrier (gopher wire mesh) to keep them out of your garden and landscape. We have heard from many people who have tried just about every trick under the sun to rid of gophers before getting professional-grade gopher mesh. The following is a list of strategies that have not worked and would be a waste of your time and money.

Sound Devices - Even though there are many devices on the market to get rid of pocket gophers, they are not effective. This includes solar-powered vibrating stakes, ultrasonic devices, and wind-powered pinwheels. Gophers are not easy to frighten off because they are used to various noises such as lawnmowers, sprinklers, vehicles, and people moving around.

Repellants - There are many repellents on the market to protect gardens from pocket gophers. There are plants like gopher purge (Euphorbia Lathyrus), castor bean (Ricinus communis), and garlic that claim to work but research has not been able to support these claims and many customers found these remedies do not work or if they did, sooner or later, the gophers would come back.

Another tried and died method is placing chewing gum, human hair, or laxatives in the rodent's burrow hoping to drive them off. These are old wives' tales and nothing more. They just don't work.

There's always poison but this method may cause more serious issues. They can poison and kill seed-eating birds, livestock, domestic pets, and predatory animals such as owls, foxes, and coyotes that might eat the poisoned rodents and die.

Final Opinion

The best way to get rid of gophers is professional-grade gopher wire mesh. A high quality mesh will provide an effective lifespan of 7-12+ years and if using the highest grade, stainless steel mesh, it should last for 12+ years.

Gopher control under any circumstance is most effective when the gophers are active and near the surface. Your best sign is frequent mound-building activities and this usually takes place in the spring and fall when moisture is high. Their activities die down in summer when the surface moisture is dry and soil temperatures are on the rise. With irrigated conditions, gophers could remain active near the surface for the entire summer.