What do pocket gophers look like?
Pocket gophers are thick bodied rodents with short legs and long claws. They have long teeth that grow back into their skull and are reddish brown in color. Their name is derived from the pockets or pouches on their cheeks. These pouches are on the outside and serve to hold seed picked up for feeding or storage. They range from 6-12 inches long, have small eyes and ears but a keen sense of smell.
They are relatively solitary rodents and are usually more than one is only found in a single system during mating or if the female is nursing young. Once weaned the young move out of the system and migrate out to start a new system on their own.
Gophers rarely travel above ground, they are slow animals and very easily taken by predators above the ground. Most of their visits above ground are for feeding or pushing dirt from either cleaning or expanding their tunnel system. These dirt mounds make gophers quite noticeable, they usually are located near the end of a runway and help serve in treatment of this rodent pest.
Gophers are solitary animals, they are only found together during mating or raising of young. They mate 2-3 times a year, which may also vary due to availability of food sources. They are very territorial but will take over the burrow system of another gopher if the system is vacant.
Gophers will feed on pretty much any kind of plant material; they mainly feed below the ground on the roots systems of small plants, shrubs and grass. They will though feed on the plants above the ground when the root systems or food supply become depleted. There are plants such as ivy and ice plant that are not preferred but will be fed upon if they are the only available food source.
Gophers will feed off of whatever type of plant material is present at the time of infestation. They do have preferences and that is why you will see gophers infesting turf and gazania at a much higher rate than in ground cover such as red apple. Also, any type of ivy or vine plant material can provide some type of barrier to pocket gophers, but if no other food supple is near, gophers will feed off of those plants as well.
How can you prevent pocket gophers from getting in your yard?
It is almost impossible to keep these pests from entering your landscape. Pocket gophers can and do migrate above ground and even tunnel from one yard to the next.
They can be displaced when construction is being performed or the environment becomes less suitable. This applies to burrow systems that may be susceptible to flooding or a lack of viable food sources.
There are several methods of control that can be used to control pocket gophers.
Trapping is a non-chemical method of removing gophers. This method though is not highly successful and takes a lot of practice to learn to perform properly. Gophers are difficult to catch due to the way they clear out their tunnel systems and dirt often triggers the traps.
There are many different types of traps available on the market. Some better than others but the success of each type depends solely on the trapper’s ability to properly set and maintain the traps.
Baiting is another method that is now the most often used type of control. Baiting methods while more effective than trapping depend on the gophers consuming the bait. With baiting it may be necessary to treat the system several times before control is achieved.
In years past this was the primary and by far the most effective means of control. In recent years with changes in regulations the main fumigant aluminum phosphide cannot be used in most situations regarding gophers due to increased regulations. Since fumigation or “gassing” the system is the most effective different types of delivery systems have been developed to deliver carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide into the tunnel system.
These new tools while more effective than baiting can be difficult to use in certain situations because of difficulty in getting the machines to the location of the infestation. They have also shown in our testing to have reduced effectiveness with larger more extensive systems, but they certainly do have their place in our toolbox of gopher solutions!