Methods for Removing Garden Gophers

As illustrated in my last piece, gophers can cause hell for a gardener! There’s a number of different ways to handle gopher issues and since I just told you a story on how not to do it, I figured I might as well give you some solutions.

Here is a list of methods you can try to handle gophers in your garden:

Non-Lethal Methods

Gophers have very sensitive noses and if they smell something they don’t like, they will leave the area. Reminder: Be very careful with these if you have family pets that have access to the area. Fish parts, castor oil, coffee grounds, moth balls and hot sauce can harm or even kill your pets.

GophersInvadingLawnsPet Poo:  Cats & dogs are natural predators of gophers and you can use that to your advantage by scattering your pets (kitty litter and/or doggy poo) droppings into the gopher tunnels instead of tossing them into the trash. You don’t need much, but you do need to ‘refresh’ the process every so often. Go big the first time and ease up on your use from there.

Fish: If you have any fish parts left over from the last fishing trip or a nice supper at home; try placing them into the gopher hole. While this might not be a great idea if you live in the city or a neighborhood where raccoons, cats or dogs often stop by as the bones can attract them – but, if you don’t, this will confuse the gophers and stop them from chomping on your root crops. I’ve heard of a dog eating fish bones someone used while gardening and later being diagnosed with fish poisoning. So, again, if you have pets, some of these tips may not be right for you.

Castor Oil: Pouring a little castor oil liquid or capsules into the gopher tunnel will also make for a good deterrent.

Coffee Grounds: Coffee grounds are another handy material to use by spreading it on the ground.  It not only repels moles and gophers, it will also fertilize and build up the soil at the same time. Again, you may not want to let your pet too close as some dogs have been known to eat these and develop an illness.

Fragrant Dryer Sheets: If you have any fragrant dryer sheets, these can also be tucked into the holes. The strong smell will drive the critters away.  Moth balls are another option. This odor not only drives the gophers and moles away, but works also works on deterring mice and rats.  A word of caution here, though, if you have small children and pets, you might not want to use moth balls as they can potentially be fatal if ingested.

Hot Sauce: Tabasco sauce and/or peppermint oil is another non-lethal method to use on these little critters. Once again, it is the smell that deters them. The great thing about this method is that this harmless – albeit a little more repulsive — to humans.  As with all biodegradable substances, you need to refresh applications as needed.StopMolesinYourYard

Gopher Purge Plant: Gopher Purge is a strange looking plant some people absolutely swear by. It’s certainly got the right name. Some of the universities that have done studies on this plant have concluded that is ineffective to ward off gophers, but I have spoke to some gardeners and farmers that disagree.  I’m not sure whom to believe, so I’ll let you be the judge. The theory is that gophers chew on everything and when they take a bite of the Gopher Purge, the taste will drive them away. I think it is such an odd looking plant that I almost need to see it in my garden! It’s just too fun.  It is not very invasive and really only consists of one single 12” to 18” tall stock with a small cluster of seed pods on top.

Noise & Vibration: Noise is another effective method in driving out moles and gophers. It may also drive your family and neighbors a little crazy. Some say that wind chimes can be used instead of a noisy radio. The soft chiming seems to be something most gophers don’t like. The gophers around my place haven’t seemed to get the message, as I placed wind chimes all over my garden and still see the critters buzzing around. Vibration stakes can be purchased at most home and garden centers. They have been proven to be fairly effective, but they only work when you replace the batteries regularly. The vibrating stakes are somewhat fragile, so treat them gently and they will last longer.

Lethal Methods

Of course, not all farmers have the patience to attempt non-lethal methods. For them, we present a number of other ways in which you can get rid of gophers and moles more quickly that may not be kosher to all audiences.

Traps: Steel gopher traps are effective, but they can be tricky to set and a little gross to empty.  You can pick them up at any home improvement center or in the garden center of department stores.

Poison: You can use a variety of poisons to combat gopher and mole issues. Use poisons keeping safety a high priority at all times by wearing safety gloves and eye protection when handling. Keep children and pets away from the area and store the poison in a very safe place where children and animals  may not be able to readily access.  Always wash your hands after handling any toxic materials.

Gum: Fruit flavored chewing gum and specific types of soft candy can work when placed in the tunnels, but the animals die a rather slow death after ingesting them. While it is not the most humane way of dealing with the garden pests, it certainly gets the job done. There is no scientific research backing this statement, but I have personally seen it used and it does seem to work.

PropertyDestroyedbyGardenPestGas: As you may have read in my first story, this is where it all went wrong for me as a child. That’s because, in my story as a child, I used gasoline in its raw form, which was an obvious mistake thinking back. Rather, use exhaust from your vehicle. Cover all the holes but one, insert a hose you have attached to your car’s exhaust pipe, and start your car or truck. The carbon monoxide will kill any gopher or mole it reaches.  Remember that moles and gophers can have up to two miles of tunnels they maintain and live in, so you need to let your vehicle run for several minutes.

Water: You can also drown them. Some people have been successful in using a garden hose and flooding the holes. This method, in my opinion, is like using a bandage on a bullet wound. It is a temporary fix at best, and if you are paying for water use, it can be a wasteful.  I have tried this method and I have never seen any positive results.

Release the Hounds: Cats and dogs make great mole and gopher catchers. My little kitten, Socks Kitty, was always dropping off ‘presents’ for me. Most dogs that have some hunting breed in them love to go after gophers, but sometimes they can do more damage by digging big holes.  My dog, Mr. Spock, just loved to catch and eat gophers.  If one of us was working down in the lower field, he would spend all his time hunting.  We had him until he was just over 17 years.  I miss him in more ways than one.

Hire a Professional: Your last alternative, at least that I know of, is to hire a professional. While it can be a little spendy, most professionals will stand behind their work and you will not have to worry about doing anything. They will monitor their own traps and dispose of the carcasses.  Different professionals may charge by the catch or by the job, be sure to ask when you call.

This article was written by LFP Employee/Master Gardener Brook Everett. Find more of Brook’s Gardening Tips here.