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5 Steps to Get Rid of Gophers in the Garden

Gophers can do enormous damage in a very short period of time. Learn how to trap a gopher correctly to get rid of gophers in the garden.

How to Trap Gophers the Right Way

Guest post by Zach Brooks, Owner of Arizona Worm Farm

Gophers eat the roots of trees and vegetables and can kill a full-size tree in less than two days. If left alone, gophers will damage your underground infrastructure, like water pipes (especially plastic irrigation lines) and electrical cables, disrupting water and electrical supply. Even worse, they can find their way to the foundation of a house, where they begin to damage it with many years of burrowing activity and find a way to get into the house through the plumbing. Once inside the house, they will take shelter in the bathroom under the bathtubs, cupboards, or walls, where they continue their damaging activity.

Clearly, we want to get gophers out of our yards as soon as we see them!

At the Arizona Worm Farm, we are committed to not using any poisons. Poisoned rodents become prey to lots of wild birds, coyotes, dogs, and cats – so we don’t use them. Poison can also hang around in the soil, negatively impacting soils, vegetables, and microbes.

Zach checking compost at Arizona Worm Farm in Phoenix

Short of asking them nicely to leave (which I have tried – it does not work), we find traps are the most effective and humane way to dispose of these awful rodents. Learn how to trap gophers the right way with these tips.

Five Steps to Successfully Getting Rid of Your Gophers in the Garden

Getting Rid of Gophers Step 1: Know what to look for and act immediately

Gophers make a distinct mound. If you see a pile of dirt in your lawn, garden, or tree area (particularly in the Phoenix metropolitan area), it is probably caused by a gopher. Other animals and pests can dig holes, but a mound with no visible hole or a slightly filled one (like the picture below) is almost certainly a sign of one or more gophers.

Gopher mound

Getting Rid of Gophers Step 2: Find the main tunnel

Use a probe (we use a gopher probe, but a long screwdriver will work) to find the tunnel. This one takes some practice. My favorite probe is from a company called GopherHawk.

Gopher probe

Once you find the tunnel:

  • Gently scoop the mound of dirt away from where you found it and probe the ground. 
  • You will feel the probe release when you push the probe into the main tunnel. 
  • Open the pathway from the top into the tunnel using your hands or a small hand shovel. 
  • If you find it – the tunnel will be well-defined and easy to feel.

Pro Tip: If you entered the tunnel in the middle (if you can feel it in both directions), you need to set two traps – one in each direction. 

Getting Rid of Gophers Step 3: Set the right trap correctly

We use a trap called the Gophinator. This trap is made of stainless steel and won’t rust. We get many years of use from each trap. We attach a line to the loop at the spring end of the trap. Instructions on how to set the trap come in the package with the trap. Follow the directions on your trap.

How to Trap Gophers Correctly
Gopher trap

We make sure to fit the trap snuggly in the hole (in both directions if the tunnel goes both ways) and then place a “flag” or marker at the end of the line we placed on the trap. This makes the trap easy to retrieve from the tunnel.

How to Trap Gophers Correctly
Gopher trap set in gopher hole

Getting Rid of Gophers Step 4: Cover the hole completely

Finally, we cover the trap with a flexible carpet square and then some dirt. This “secret step” ensures the gopher won’t see any light and will trigger the trap. We use carpet or tile squares from your nearest big box store. They are inexpensive and quite effective.

Cover trap after covering with carpet or tile

Getting Rid of Gophers Step 5: Check the trap after 24 hours

After 24 hours, pull the line to remove the trap. If you were successful, release the trap and dispose of the gopher. If you come up empty (which happens to us almost a third of the time), wait and watch for the next mound and try again right away.

After you have trapped your gopher, stay vigilant. It is not unusual to have multiple gophers in a general area. Keep an eye out for mounds – and if you see a mound – set a trap.

We offer a “gopher trapping class” at the Arizona Worm Farm if you want hands-on training and practice.

Looking for more pest control tips? Check out these blog posts:

Garden Hacks: 9 Simple Pest Control Tips

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