Gophers, also known as pocket gophers, can cause nuisance in your backyard and garden by building a wide network of tunnels underground while eating your fruits, vegetables, plants, and roots. To protect your flowers beds and fruit patches from getting destroyed, take immediate action to get rid of them for good.
How to Locate Active Gopher Burrows
Fresh mounds of soil dispersed all across your yard are a clear indication of gophers residing underground. Their burrows comprise of a 6 to 12 inches deep main tunnel/runway, where they live, and several lateral tunnels plugged with soil. Get a basic idea about their tunnel system below:
Finding the runway is important before you can try any of the methods to drive the gopher away. To locate it, insert a metal probe about 8 to 12 inches deep into one of the mounds mentioned above. When your probe reaches the main tunnel, you will feel it drop about 2 inches more into the open space. Penetrate it further to make sure you find the main tunnel.
Ways to Keep Gophers Out of Your Garden
Getting Rid of Gophers with Home Remedies and Repellents (Less Effective Methods)
1) Water: Flooding the gopher tunnels with a water hose might compel them to come out of the holes and move somewhere else, probably outside your yard. You can directly pour 5-gallon buckets of water (try soapy water) into the burrows as well.
While a few gardeners have been successful, others found fresh holes in their garden the next day. A major drawback of using water is that it loosens the soil, making it easier for gophers to dig newer tunnels and move to the higher ground, and wait till the water recedes.
TIP: Taking a cue from this method, you can fill a 1-gallon milk jug with water and place it in an inverted position over the hole. As evident from this video, once the water pours down, the gopher will pop right up into the jug and get trapped. However, in case of multiple holes in your lawn, this option might not be too practical.
2) Ultrasonic Gopher Repellents: Commercial noise deterrents like sonic spikes when inserted into the ground, close to the tunnels, emit high-frequency sounds that safely repel the gophers. Based on some reviews given by users, these devices seem to work moderately well as long as their batteries last.
3) Essential Oils: Put a few drops of castor/peppermint oil on cotton balls (old newspapers or cloths will also do) and drop them into the tunnels. But, as the homemade repellent only keeps the gophers temporarily away, it is not an effective long-term solution.
4) Ammonia and Mothballs: Both have an odor strong enough to keep those pocket gophers out of your backyard as shared by some fellow gardeners. However, these repellents should not come in contact with your pets as these are toxic.
TIP: According to an online forum, pouring a combination of ammonia and bleach into the burrows produces a toxic gas that could suffocate and kill gophers.
5) Natural Repellent Plants: The smell of gopher purge, castor bean, and garlic might help in getting rid of gophers naturally. However, there are no evidences to support these claims.
7) Juicy Fruit Gum: In several forums and blogs, bubblegum has been suggested to be useful in killing gophers by blocking their intestine. And even though it is not a proven method, it is pretty easy and inexpensive to try. Just place few flavored gums inside the tunnels; if you no longer spot any gopher in your pasture, the bubble gums may have worked.
8) Fumigants: Gas or smoke cartridges are assumed to suffocate gophers to death inside their tunnels. However, they do not work in most cases as these rodents can detect the gas and seal off their burrows. Although zinc phosphide fumigants might be effective, their application requires professional help.
How to Get Rid of Gophers Humanely Without Killing Them (Moderately-Effective Methods)
1) Live Trap
Live box traps can be a good option, especially if there are multiple gophers running around your yard. Once they are trapped, check with your local authorities (if you need) to decide where to release them.
2) Underground Fencing
Bury a mesh wire with small openings (preferably 1/4 to 1/2 inches in size) about 1½ foot deep and ½ foot above the ground around your vegetable garden to discourage gophers from digging holes and eating away the roots of your plants. However, this method might need expert help as you need to be sure not to hurt any tree roots, and this might only be useful for large garden areas.
Eradicating Gophers Permanently (Methods Most Likely to Work)
1) Lethal Gopher Traps: They work on a spring mechanism, squeezing the gopher around the neck or chest and killing it quickly. Wire traps and black box traps are the common types commercially available. Apples, alfalfa greens, carrots, or peanut butter can be good as baits. Using two traps side by side might increase your chances of a good catch.
NOTE: Since many States do not allow trapping and killing animals, make sure you are aware of the rules and regulations in your region before trying out the method.
2) Poison Baits: Using commercial products with zinc phosphide, strychnine, or diphacinone content can be one of the best ways for removing gophers forever. Use a long-handled spoon/shovel to place the bait directly into the main runway through the lateral tunnel. It can also be applied with a mechanical bait applicator that creates an artificial burrow next to the hole to connect with the main tunnel.
A possibly effective homemade bait recipe is a mixture of 4 quarts of carrots/sweet potatoes/sugar beets/parsnips (cut into small pieces), 1/8 oz. of strychnine, and 1/8 oz. of saccharine.
After killing the resident gophers, these baits still remain effective for a longer time, therefore eliminating any new gophers trying to invade the old burrows. However, the toxic products should not come in contact with plants as they may cause poisoning and affect their growth.
3) Dry Ice: Some fellow gardeners have recommended eradication of gophers by using dry ice. Seal all the visible holes in your lawn except one, drop some dry ice chunks into it (make sure to wear gloves), and then seal it off. As the dry ice undergoes sublimation, carbon dioxide is released, cutting off the supply of oxygen inside the burrows, and thus suffocating the gophers to death.
Although this method might work, using dry ice does not seem to be a feasible option.
Gopher Control and Prevention by Keeping your Yard Clean
In addition to removing debris, stones, and wooden piles from your yard, trimming it on a regular basis makes it least attractive to gophers, thereby discouraging their entry.