How to Get Rid of Gophers in Your Yard 

close-up of a gopher in grass

Your scarecrow might ward off the crows and blackbirds, but it can’t scare underground carrot thieves. Gophers will stop at nothing to get your vegetables and build a tunnel fortress beneath your lawn. 

Luckily, our handy guide can help you get rid of the gophers in your yard. From underground fencing to setting traps, the gopher control methods we outline will send these critters packing. 

What are gophers?

Widely considered pests, gophers are medium-sized rodents with small ears, short legs, and exceptional digging skills (thanks to their powerful forequarters). Often called pocket gophers due to the cheek pouches they use for carrying food and other nest-building materials, gophers can dig underground tunnels that extend anywhere from 200 to 2,000 square feet.

Gophers have tiny eyes that are sensitive to light, which is why you don’t often see them traveling above ground. Their large-clawed front paws are great tools for digging, and their short fur doesn’t cake in wet soils. Most gophers are 6 to 10 inches long, and their fur colors typically range between brown and gray.

Pocket gophers dig their tunnels in rangelands, roadsides, and alfalfa fields. They’ll also invade lawns, gardens, and flower beds. As herbivores, they love an opportunity to get their paws on tree roots, alfalfa, different grasses, bulbs, carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic, and dandelions.

How to get rid of gophers in your yard

gopher sitting on a rock
Nekan | Canva Pro | License

Before you can start controlling the gophers in your yard, there’s one skill you’ll have to master –– finding the gopher’s main tunnel. Locating the tunnel can take a bit of practice, so gather some patience and follow these steps for a successful operation.

  1. Find a probe tool. Pipes, shovel handles, and broom handles make great probes. 
  2. Locate the gopher’s soil mound. The lateral tunnel, which leads to the main tunnel, will be on the side of the plugged hole. 
  3. On the side nearest the plugged hole, stick the probe into the ground 4 to 10 inches from the mound’s base. The main tunnel is usually 4 to 12 inches below the soil’s surface. When the probe hits the gopher’s tunnel, you’ll feel the probe give way to a sudden 2-inch drop. 

Once you have this particular competence, you can employ any of the elimination techniques outlined below.

Install exclusion fencing

Are gophers invading your vegetable garden year after year? Installing an underground fence should help throw them off their course. This control method can prove difficult, so calling a local pest control professional may be something to consider. To do it:

  • You’ll need a minimum of 3 ½ feet of the fencing material. This can be hardware cloth or ½ to ¾-inch wire mesh. 
  • Bury the fencing at least 2 feet into the ground, with an additional 6 inches of wire fencing bent at a 90-degree angle away from the plants. In total, you’ll bury 2 ½ feet of the material. The fence will act as a barricade and deter pocket gophers from digging any further. In case the gopher decides to move overland, keep at least 1 foot of fencing above ground.  
  • When installing the fencing, maintain a 2-foot distance between the fence and the plant. This helps prevent the plant roots from growing into the wire mesh. 

Exclusion is not a foolproof control method. Stubborn gophers might still manage to dig beneath the fence and enter your garden. However, it does work when you want to protect a specific yard area without using harmful chemicals or killing the animal. 

Lay gopher traps

Trapping gophers may take a few attempts, but it’s still one of the most effective ways to get rid of the little critters. Depending on the situation, you can opt for live or kill traps, which can be purchased at your local supply store. Set them regardless of the season, as gophers don’t hibernate.

The following tips can be a helpful guide to setting a gopher trap, but always read and follow the instructions that come with your specific trap type. 

  • Using your probe, dig a hole to reveal where the lateral and main tunnels meet. You should see two open holes leading into the main tunnel (the lateral tunnel is often full of soil). 
  • Clean out the tunnel system to have a clear way for the traps.
  • Insert a trap 6 to 8 inches deep into each hole of the main tunnel. Setting traps in the main tunnel usually yields better results than in the lateral tunnel. 
  • Secure the traps with a wire and stake to easily locate and retrieve them later. This also prevents wildlife from taking off with the gopher.
  • Covering the gopher burrows using plywood or cardboard is a good idea if other animals and humans frequently visit the area. Otherwise, leaving the traps uncovered will attract the gophers because they don’t like open burrow systems. They will trigger the trap as they attempt to plug the hole with soil. 
  • Check the traps frequently, especially if you’re using a live trap. If you don’t catch a gopher within 48 hours, move it to a new tunnel system and start again. 

Important: Before setting any traps in your yard, it’s essential to check your local and state laws. In some areas, doing this without a license is illegal.

Use gopher repellents

Whether natural or chemical, repellents can make the area frequented by gophers unpleasant enough to drive them away.

Place the repellent in target areas around your yard, close to the burrows. These are typically in your garden or lawn – closer to your home in any case. After a few days, move your repellent of choice to burrows located further away, pushing the pocket gophers away from your yard into an external area.

While using repellents such as castor oil or garlic may disturb your furry visitors to an extent, there’s no guarantee this approach will yield the results you’re looking for. According to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, there’s no evidence to suggest that the repellent method is effective against pocket gophers.

Flood the gopher burrow

hole in a lawn

Another gopher control option is to flood the burrow system. Flooding will either create an inhospitable environment and drive out the gophers or drown them. If the gophers manage to leave their burrow system to come above ground, they become exposed to predators. 

Remember that this method is not always reliable, and it puts the gopher’s life at risk. If you don’t want to possibly kill the animal, this control solution may not be ideal. 

Set rodenticide baits

Only use rodenticides as a last line of defense after implementing other gopher-control methods, such as exclusion and trapping. When using rodenticides to control pocket gophers, it’s essential to perform this method correctly and safely. Otherwise, you risk harming pets, wildlife, children, and yourself. 

According to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, strychnine-treated grain is the most effective type of bait for pocket gopher control. The bait generally contains 0.5% strychnine and is lethal with a single feeding. Gopher baits containing 2.0% zinc phosphide are also lethal after a single feeding.

When using rodenticides, always read and follow the product’s instructions. You may only apply rodenticides inside the gopher’s main tunnel. Misapplying rodenticides is illegal and dangerous. 

WARNING: Do not use rodenticides in vegetable gardens. The root vegetables could come in direct contact with the poison bait and expose people to the rodenticide. 

How to use rodenticides:

  1. Correctly identify the pest you are trying to control – in this case, gophers.
  2. Read and closely follow the instructions on the rodenticide label. 
  3. Wear protective clothing and equipment, including chemical-resistant gloves, eye protection, lung protection, long sleeves, and pants.
  4. Don’t smoke or eat while handling rodenticides. Wash your hands thoroughly after application. 
  5. Probe the ground and search for the main tunnel. After finding it, enlarge the hole by rotating the probe or inserting a large stick. 
  6. Following all instructions, place the bait carefully into the hole without disrupting the tunnel. You can apply the bait using a spoon and funnel reserved only for that purpose.
  7. Be careful not to spill rodenticides onto the ground. Otherwise, pets, wildlife, or children may come in contact with it. 
  8. Close the probe hole with a large rock or another material that blocks light but doesn’t make soil fall onto the bait.  
  9. Repeat this process a few times with the same main tunnel. Several bait placements within the main burrow system will increase the likelihood of poisoning the gopher. 
  10. Follow the label’s storage instructions. Always store rodenticides away from pets, wildlife, and children. Never store rodenticides near food items for pets, livestock, and humans. 

Control methods to avoid

el cajon yacht club | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Live trapping

Most people turn to live trapping in an effort to keep control methods humane, but this approach hasn’t seen much success. You may fatally injure the animal when attempting to capture and relocate it. Once wounded, the chances of a gopher recovering are very low due to its blood’s inability to clot (hemophilia).

Another problem with live trapping is that gophers are extremely territorial creatures, which may set off bloody battles with other gophers in the relocation spot. 

Sonic repellents

Another ineffective gopher control method is the use of sonic devices – though opinions on this approach are divided. While some homeowners swear by this technique, others claim it has no effect on gopher infestations.

Sonic devices emit low-frequency sounds (imperceptible to humans) meant to irritate and drive gophers away from the property. Although this solution is more humane than baits, there’s no evidence to support its effectiveness, which is why you should seriously consider every aspect before making a decision.


In an effort to get rid of gophers, some homeowners will turn to fumigation. But this control method involves time and money, something you may not find appealing. 

For any fumigation method, be it carbon dioxide fumigation, carbon monoxide fumigation, or smoke bomb fumigation, costly equipment and expertise are required. In the wrong hands, it can cause health problems and prove ineffective. When they come into contact with the gas, the gophers can simply dig other tunnels and easily escape to safer areas. 

Signs you have a gopher problem

Piles of fresh soil are the best sign of a gopher living in your yard. As the rodent digs its tunnel, it pushes the dirt up to the surface, creating a crescent or horseshoe-shaped mound when viewed from above.

On one side of the gopher mound, you’ll likely find a sealed depression of soil –– this is the gopher’s entryway. Gophers will plug up their entryway with soil to block out light and keep predators at bay. 

You’ll spot the most gopher activity in spring and fall because that’s when the soil is most optimal for digging. 

How to tell apart gopher, mole, and vole damage

If you’re inexperienced, you may easily confuse gopher damage with another pest. Pocket gophers look similar to many other small animals in the yard, mainly moles and voles. Here’s how to tell the difference between gopher, mole, and vole damage: 

  • Gopher damage – When they dig, pocket gophers create unique, easily identifiable horseshoe-like mounds of soil. They also tend to uproot plants, chew their roots, or pull them entirely underground.
  • Mole damage – With moles, you’ll likely see raised mounds in your lawn or long, raised ridges in your soil. Your soil may have a squishy consistency, and weeds may be more abundant than usual. Moles like to pull out plant roots, allowing weeds to flourish.
  • Vole damage – Also known as meadow voles, voles are similar to field mice and like to dig holes under your landscaping. In this case, you won’t see any mounds of soil; rather, you’ll see long, narrow runways that lead to underground burrows.

FAQ about getting rid of gophers in your yard

Can natural predators help eliminate gophers?

Relying on predators to control your gophers may not provide the desired results. Some homeowners install owl boxes to encourage barn owls to nest. Yet barn owls won’t necessarily limit their hunting grounds to your lawn, and there is no guarantee they will target your gophers. 

How can gophers damage my yard?

Gophers might look harmless, but they can cause considerable damage to a well-manicured lawn. They fill the yard with piles of soil as they excavate their tunnels, which can interfere with mowing and ruin your lawn’s appearance. And you don’t want these rodents discovering your vegetables either –– they’ll pull your veggies underground as easily as one, two, three!

Pocket gophers also habitually destroy underground utility cables and irrigation pipes. If you just spent money on a brand new sprinkler system, the last thing you want is a gopher digging at its pipes. 

What benefits do gophers bring to the ecosystem?

Without a doubt, pocket gophers benefit the ecosystem they’re a part of. Because one of their pastimes is moving and turning large quantities of soil, they help with aeration. This is especially important if your soil often becomes compacted due to various agricultural practices.  

Their tunnels capture rainfall and melting snow that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Plus, uninhabited tunnels provide shelter for various species, and the waste left behind by gophers is a great fertilizer for the soil.

Help your lawn recover after gophers attack

Gopher control is no walk in the park. After probing your yard for the tunnel and digging holes to set traps, your lawn is bound to look like a mess. Even worse, all your DIY efforts may be in vain, which is why turning to a wildlife removal company in your area is a good idea.

Once the pesky critters are out of the way, let a local lawn care professional handle the rest. They can patch up your yard, overseed affected areas, and promote new growth. More than that, a pro also can mow, fertilize your lawn, and keep it in tip-top shape year-round. So say goodbye to those gopher holes and hello to your new beautiful landscape. 

Main Photo Credit: Lubos Houska | Pixabay

Andie Ioó

In my free time, I enjoy traveling with my husband, sports, trying out new recipes, reading, and watching reruns of '90s TV shows. As a way to relax and decompress, I enjoy landscaping around my little yard and DIY home projects.