By Kate Torpie, Garden Guides Contributor
Gophers are small rodents that spend most of their lives underground. They leave very obvious signs of their presence. As they travel, they will dig in front of them resulting in a path of tunnels you can see in your yard. You may also start noticing that some of your grass feels like it has no bottom; the moles have dug the bottom out from it. Fan-shaped mounds will indicate the head of one tunnel.
Gophers are root-eaters. They can take down an entire tree, uproot an entire lawn and pull an entire garden into their tunnels for munching.
Prevention and Control
There are many repellents that claim to discourage gophers through smell and taste. For example a cotton ball doused in bleach may be placed in an active tunnel. However, the likely outcome is that the gopher will wall off that tunnel and dig a new one. It is not easy to prevent gophers from entering a typical suburban garden but it can be done by digging out the deep, long holes and placing down mesh wire before planting raised beds. A vigilant gardener should take action the first day he or she sees a mound. Place traps before the gopher has had a chance to establish a system of tunnels so that the wary gopher won't have many places to go to avoid the unknown object. Trapping is the best method of control; there are many different types of traps available, some more humane than others. Contact your local humane society to rent traps and get instructions. If gophers have been a problem in your garden before, you may want to purchase synthetic coyote urine to spray to deter gophers immediately after planting. Animal droppings also make gophers uncomfortable,but even these do not prevent gophers altogether.
Gophers like leafy greens often found in vegetable gardens. However, they will also feast on the watery roots of other plants. They can eat away at your entire garden without ever being seen: they can pull plants down into their tunnel instead of coming out. Since their teeth grow constantly, they will also gnaw circles in the base of trees. But they damage more than vegetation. Children and pets can hurt themselves if they are running and happen into a gopher hole. Gophers may gnaw through water or cable lines, causing very expensive damage.
Gophers have predators but none that you want to attract to your property, as they are all wild animals. Think bobcats, snakes and skunks, for starters.
Other Methods of Control
* There are several products that smell like predators which you can sprinkle around your property; for example: "Shake Away Granules."
* You can call a professional to trap your gopher or use a trap yourself.
* In moist conditions, the tunnels can be fumigated.
* You can also try baiting the gopher with toxic bait. If the tunnels are over a large area (as in a farm), you may need a machine called a burrow builder. These attach to a tractor and create fake burrows lined with bait. For smaller problems, you can bait the tunnels yourself. Simply use a bait-dispensing probe. Bait is best placed near fan-shaped mounds.
* Several baits are available either online or at your local garden store. However, you must follow direction exactly. These are poisons and can be dangerous.
* If water damage isn't an issue, you can insert a hose into a tunnel.