Gopher Problems? Tips on How to Get Rid of Gophers

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The dreaded gopher has been a great menace to many homeowners who have seen their lawns ruined and vegetables eaten. Gophers are common pests that inhabit many different environments, but there are several ways to get rid of them ranging from repelling the animals to completely exterminating them.

Identifying Gophers

There are two main pests that can cause serious damage to lawns: gophers and moles. They look vastly different, but odds are, the homeowner won't see them until it's too late. If the garden vegetables or flowers are being eaten from underground, then the problem is likely a gopher.

Moles eat grubs and worms underground and leave plants alone. Also, moles create mounds and trails that are visible on the surface, but gopher tunnels are generally underground and invisible above ground, other than the holes they make and occasional mounds as they move the dirt. Also, gopher tunnels tend to be fan shaped.

No-Kill Ways to Get Rid of Gophers

Gopher Traps

The traps are placed by an active gopher mound and placed in the tunnel. A burlap sack or dark piece of plastic should be placed over the trap and hole to keep light from shining in. It's important to use gloves when handling the trap, because gophers can smell a human scent and won't go near it. Rub the trap down with rosemary or other strong smelling herbs to help hide any human scent on the trap.

Castor Oil Pellets

Placing pellets of castor oil evenly around the yard, flowers and garden areas repels gophers, moles and armadillos. The pellets and other repellants don't actually harm the animals, but instead send them packing. After dropping the pellets into the ground, water them or wait until it rains. The pellets dissolve and release an odor that gophers hate. The pellets are made of castor oil, soap and grains of corn cob, which is also beneficial to the lawn.

Gopher Purge

Gopher Purge, sometimes called Gopher Spurge or Mole Plant, is a plant that has a thick, milky sap that can cause skin irritation in people and will make gophers sick, with a small chance that they may die. A wall of the plants is planted by the gophers' tunnel where they can eat the roots. In order for this method to work, the gophers must eat the roots. This is a popular, natural method, because it not only controls the problem, but also uses a plant that is attractive. It can make an excellent addition to any flower garden and mixes in well with other flowers. Gopher Purge also seeds easily, so you may need to keep an eye on it and remove any seedlings that pop up in the garden.

Gopher Flares

Gopher flares fill the tunnels with smoke, causing the gopher to leave. However, this method is not considered to be very effective since the gopher often comes back. The smoke itself doesn't kill the gophers, but drives them out of their holes.

Permanent Gopher Removal


Some people choose to drown gophers by filling their holes with water from a garden hose. The water fills the tunnel and either drowns the gopher or causes him to leave the ground where he is usually shot or hit in the head with a shovel. The main downside is supersaturating the ground with water. If the tunnels go right under a flower or vegetable garden, then the water can do as much damage as the gopher.


There are poison baits available which are placed in the tunnel for the gophers to eat. It is effective, but can harbor some serious consequences. The poison doesn't care what it kills or makes sick. If a child or pet should handle or eat the poison or the poisoned gopher, it can make them seriously ill or even kill them. This method should only be used if there is absolutely no chance a pet or child will be near the poison or the gopher.

Wild Gopher Snake

Releasing a wild gopher snake into a yard may sound a little extreme, but these little predators will clear out a large area either by frightening the gophers off or eating them. The snake can clear about an acre of land and will stay around for a while waiting for the little vermin to come back before moving on to greener, gopher-filled pastures.

The Exterminator

If all else fails and the gophers are turning the garden into a flower or vegetable wasteland, then it may be time to call in the professionals. An exterminator is licensed to spray a deadly chemical into the ground called aluminum phosphide , which creates a toxic gas that kills the gopher, but will not harm animals if they eat the dead animal's remains. The gas leaves no trace in the system, so pets are safe. The exterminator is a costly option, but many companies have a guarantee for their service.

A gopher can be a major lawn and garden pest, but these methods are surefire ways to eliminate the problem.

Last Updated: May 9, 2011
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