Gardeners' Dirt: Good riddance to gophers
By Julie Moritz - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
May 9, 2013 at 12:09 a.m.
In today's article, you are in for some comic relief. While I am a certified Master Gardener, I do not presume to be a "master" of anything. I do have experience in gopher control, and that is what I'd like to relate.
Gophers vs. moles
Gophers. The very word conjures up visions of unsightly earthen mounds, damaged vegetation and the ruined golf course in "Caddyshack." Not to be confused with the other subterranean pest, the mole, which leaves a raised tunnel of earth leading to a small mound with a hole in the middle, the gopher leaves a large mound with a big hole to the side. Gardeners are especially eager to rid the underground of gophers as they consume plant matter whereas the mole eats insects.
My problem is gophers - lots of gophers. They're like the bothersome house guest that stays too long. You just want them gone.
We have several acres surrounding our home, so we chose to concentrate our efforts on the mounds that are visible from the house.
Tried methods to get rid of gophers
There are numerous ways to try to get rid of gophers. We tried several with little success.
My husband and I started with the sound irritation tactic. We placed small metal wind mills near the mounds. As the wind blows, these wind mills create sound so irritating to the gophers they should move on.
Our results: One wind mill was stolen; several were actually torn apart by the wind; and the ones that got the prevailing winds, hence the noisiest, were successful. Our home is positioned so the back porch gets the breeze.
These wind mills make irritating noise above ground also. We moved to the country for peace and quiet, so this was not a good continuing solution for us.
We thought a silent above-ground approach could work. Battery or solar-powered spikes that produce underground sonic pulses were tried next. We inserted these by the mounds, hoping the vibrations would cause the gophers to move on. No such luck. We live on saline coastal plains near Seadrift and if these are put in a more compact soil than sand, they possibly could do the trick.
Flooding the hole
Then we tried flooding. We just put a garden hose down the hole and turned it on. The parched soil soaked up the water before it could affect the gophers. When the local area gets out of drought conditions, this might work.
Smelly granule application
Next we tried the smelly granule plan. We used a fertilizer spreader to distribute the granules around the mounds. The odor created is supposed to be sufficiently unpleasant to make the gophers move on. The gophers around here were not affected. Perhaps our sandy soil masked or absorbed the smell.
We finally settled on metal traps to keep the unsightly mounds away from view from our home, and we continue to use them when needed. Sources for all these products we tried include feed stores, garden centers or online.
When we spot a fresh mound we get to work. Recently one popped up overnight right out our bedroom window. The set metal trap is positioned approximately six inches down the hole. Be sure to attach a metal wire, not string, to pull it out. When the gopher brings more dirt up the path, he hits the trap. Good bye, gopher.
We put a bucket on top of the hole with the trap to keep out our dogs, or any other creature that might get curious. The next day one more mound-building gopher is discarded. This has worked for us when a now occasional mound appears.
Another sure way
Another way that we never tried might be worth mentioning. That method is quickly eliminating the critter altogether. I know someone who actually did this.
If you happen to spot a fresh mound with some movement around the hole, this method can be an option. Strategically position yourself with a shot gun and wait. When the gopher appears out the top, take the opportunity. Timing is everything with this method. Plus you need to have lots of extra time on your hands for the wait, be a good shot - and live in an area that allows for legally discharging a firearm.
There are many options for removing gophers from property. Based on the size of the yard, the number of pests and your views on relocation or permanent removal you can choose the method best for you.
For more information on removing gophers and other pests, come to the Lunch and Learn with the Masters educational session on Monday.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.