How to kill Gophers

A Layman’s Guide To Gopher Killing

We must begin this treatise on gopher killing with two basic understandings: The first is that if you have gophers, they must go.  It is a basic, primal battle between your garden and the gophers and the gophers will always win, so they must go.  Harden your hearts, good gardeners…harden your hearts.

The second basic understanding is that I am writing this, not as a professional gopher killer or writer, but as an honest citizen who has had to defend her own land from the ravages of the gophers and, for a brief moment, was actually winning.  How I did it is a long story that involves every gopher killing technique on and off the market, which I will guide you through, method by method, with copious notes on their efficacy (or lack thereof).

The first question will always be:  Is it a gopher or is it a mole?  Gophers eat roots.  Moles eat worms.  Gophers are really bad for your garden…moles, not so much.  Gophers leave long holes that go way underground.  Moles root around the top more and leave long lines of dirt along the top of the ground.

1st method: Drown them

Gophers have very long tunnel systems that stretch for kilometers under the ground. If you catch the gopher at the moment it dives down its hole and have a hose running that you stick immediately down its hole, you may be able to drown it (at least this is what a reliable friend told me) but probably not.  The tunnels are so long and they have so many chambers and exit routes, the gophers can almost always outrun the water.  I left a hose running all night long in a gopher hole and the water never bubbled to the surface, the hole never filled up and the gophers were back the next day. Every amateur will try to drown the gophers first thing.

2nd method: Shoot them

I have not tried this as I do not have a gun and have neighbors close by.  I also do not have the free time to spend waiting for gophers to surface.  I have heard of retired farmers devoting their time to this activity with some success.  Good luck with all that.  I can not recommend either the efficacy or safety of this method:

3rd method: Smoke them out

At your local hardware store, you will find gopher smoke bombs.  You light them like you would a flare, stick them in the gopher hole and then hope they work.  For me, they did not.  I put one in every gopher hole I could find and it did not seem to make a dent in their activity the next day.  It is hard to know if you have had any success, if you do not have a dead gopher body to prove it.

4th method: Solar powered vibrating sonic stakes that you stick in the ground

These stakes are pretty expensive.  I put them in the ground and the next day, the gophers had dug all around them.  Maybe I installed them wrong.  Maybe you would have better luck.  For me it was an absolute flop.

5th method: Poison

Would you put poison around the very veggies that you plan on eating eventually?  Well, I did resort to poison,  briefly, in a fit of desperation.  I bought some poison gopher pellets, put them in the gopher hole and waited for the gopher to eat them.  They didn’t.  I eventually gave up, removed the pellets I could find and the few that I couldn’t find were probably tilled into the soil.

6th method: Juicy Fruit Gum

I was told by a bank teller (yes, by this time I was asking random strangers for advice on gopher killing) that gophers will eat Juicy Fruit Gum.  It will give them indigestion and clog up their insides and they will die(or so I was told). The gophers did not eat the Juicy Fruit Gum that I put around their gopher tunnels.  On hindsight, I might have gotten human scent on the Juicy Fruit.  Maybe that is why it didn’t work.

7th method: Rose brambles

So, I went back into town and asked the postal worker how to kill gophers.  She recommended rose brambles.  Apparently, gophers are hemophiliacs and if they get scratched with a rose thorn, they will bleed out and die.  I stuffed the gopher tunnels with brambles and the gophers just built new tunnels.  That method bombed.

8th method: Human Pee

I was told by another random person, that gophers are repulsed by human pee and will leave a garden where pee has been applied…not so for my gophers.  Their activity was not reduced in the least by this method.  Total failure.

9th method: Gas and Fire

This method has always seemed very attractive to me, but I have never been able to put it to use for lack of equipment, expertise and balls.  I have been told that this method is used by orchardists.  First they pump gas (not the liquid kind) into the tunnels and when the gas has crept down every tunnel and into every crevice of the gophers domain, they light it on fire with a blow torch.  They then have mini underground explosions all over the orchard.  This is very effective and probably worth looking into if you have an orchard.

10th method: traps

I tried three different kind of gopher traps, all of which were supposed to work via the same basic method of either skewering the gopher or clamping down on him.  The gophers didn’t spring any of them until I tried the Victor Gopher Trap.  This is a contraption made out of green wire.  It is like a jigsaw puzzle to set and I recommend that you find a patient store clerk and get them to demonstrate how to set the trap before you take it home.  It also calls for a set of strong thumbs.

I knew that the first trap worked because something drug it down into the gopher hole where I was unable to retrieve it.  At $7.00 per trap, I knew that I would have to secure the trap to something so I could reuse it.  I tied a piece of twine to one end of the trap and tied the other end to a tree.  The dying gopher chewed through the twine and drug the trap into the hole with him, and so I lost another trap.  The next time I tried several strands of fishing wire, which the gopher bit through and so I lost another trap.  I then tried tying the trap with multiple strands of wire to a big metal watering can. The next morning both can and trap were gone.  I found them at the other end of the property where the neighbors cat had drug them and eaten the gopher out of the trap.  I was thus spared the gruesome task of disposing of the dead gopher, which brings us to the next method.

11th method: cats

If you leave the dead gopher in the trap for a day or so, the neighbors cat will come and eat it and all that will be left is a bit of grey fuzz.  Once the cat figures out that tasty gophers come out of those holes, they will start to wait for them and then you will have a gopher hunter.  I would not recommend getting a cat just for this purpose because they will also eat songbirds, crap in your garden, spray your porch and fight with skunks under your house. But if you have a random cat around your property, they can help.  Dogs will also catch gophers.

12th Method: Dogs

Dogs can also kill gophers, though their hunting techniques are less graceful than those of a cat.  I have had two dogs and their methods varied thus:

The black lab (R.I.P.) hunted gophers by digging long trenches so that my yard began to resemble a WW One battlefield complete with muddy pits when it rained and dustbowls during the summer.  He would occasionally catch one.. I could see this by the little gopher feet he left lying around the place.

Good Dog!

My second dog, an Australian Shepherd, catches  gophers by listening to them stir way underground and then frantically digging pits that go deep into the earth.  She has had some success as evidenced, again, by the gopher feet.  Dogs don’t eat gopher feet.

Good Dog!

13th method: barrier

I have heard that if you put the roots of the plant that you are about to put in the ground into a sack made of wire mesh, the gophers will not be able to get to the roots and the plant will have time to get established.

14th Method: Dry Ice

It has been commented by Chuck that dry ice, when plugged into gopher holes will kill them.  I will try this and give an update.

Good Luck

5 Comments

  • Chuck says:

    Get a few pounds of dry ice and plug every hole you find with a piece. The carbon dioxide will asphyxiate them in their holes with few side effects

  • Dave says:

    My father in law found what they preferred to eat in his garden and bought a no-kill trap that springs shut when they eat the bait. He then drops the whole trap into a large plastic garbage can filled with water. He just started last summer and got 7 groundhogs, and one or two other things i can’t recall, what they were though.

  • Elizabeth See says:

    I think the dry ice method sounds very intriguing. Even though I have experienced success with the Victor traps, I have plenty of gophers left. I will give the dry ice a try in the spring.
    Thanks

  • linda rodell says:

    UGH on the gophers…I have tried all of these except the dogs, the pee and the shooting. Forget trying to be humane is right. Its an all out war here. Ima look into the dry ice. 🙂

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