Gophers are entirely too common, so they frequently drive homeowners and business owners to contact professional pest control in The Sacramento Region. These pests dig up lawns, damage grass, create dead patches in lawns, eat important vegetation, crack foundation slabs, and more. They are definitely not good to have around your yard. Today, we are going to run through some of the most important facts Sacramento Region residents should know about gophers and gopher pest control. If you've been wondering how to detect gopher activity, or are curious about what gopher control methods work best, you're sure to pick up some important tips here. HomeShield Pest Control is an industry-leading pest control service provider and one of a limited number of gopher pest control companies in the Sacramento region that provide Integrated Pest Management solutions. Along with IPM gopher control, we offer resources like this article to help Sacramento Region residents better understand their pest problems. Enjoy.     

What Do Gophers Look Like?

Pocket gophers are tiny rodents. They measure between 5 and 14 inches in length. While small, they are still the largest of the three common tunnel-digging pests in our area. The other two lawn rodents are voles and moles. Gopher fur is brown, and they have long front teeth on the top and bottom. At the rear, they have a thin, rat-like tail. But they have an overall appearance that is more like a guinea pig than a rat.

Most of the time, you won't see pocket gophers. These critters spend their time hiding in their tunnels. What you'll see are gopher holes. Here are a few facts you should know about holes and dirt piles you find in your yard.

  • All of our common yard rodents create holes.
  • If you have voles, you'll likely see runways in your turfgrass.
  • If you have moles, you'll likely see raised dirt tunnels.
  • Examining holes and dirt mounds can help you decipher which of these three pests you have in your yard.
  • A gopher hole often has a dirt pile that has been kicked out in a fan pattern. Since it is kicked, or dug out, by the claws of the gopher, the dirt is grainy.
  • Moles create mounds with clumpy dirt. They don't claw and kick the dirt out; they push it out with brute force. 
  • Another common difference between mole holes and gopher holes is that gopher holes are sometimes close together and may have a swiss cheese appearance if no mounds are present. 
  • Moles tend to have holes that are several feet apart. 
  • Vole holes can look like swiss cheese as well. The difference between their holes and gopher holes is that they're smaller. You can fit a baseball into a gopher hole.
  • Gophers often plug entrance tunnels. But not always. 
  • Sometimes gophers patch holes to conceal their activity. Patches are hard to detect. 
  • Moles always plug their tunnels.
  • Voles never plug their tunnels. They always have open, clean-looking holes.
  • When mole or gopher tunnels are unplugged, it often means there is no longer pest activity.

That is a lot of information, but it is helpful to diagnose the holes you find on your property. You can learn valuable information that can help guide your control efforts.

gopher peaking out of a hole

How Much Damage Can Gophers Do To A Yard?

Landscaping and lawn care aren't cheap. If you've invested in landscape plants, the last thing you want is for gophers to move in and eat your plants. If you've spent money on keeping your lawn healthy, green, and beautiful, gophers can ruin your day. They eat grassroots, and you'll likely see trails of dead grass on your property. The mounds they create above ground are often spread out by lawnmowing, and the dirt can choke the grass. When this happens, large unsightly patches can appear. There is no end to the amount of money gophers can cost you. It depends on how much you're willing to spend to repair the damage. Of course, there is another option. You can have a gopher management plan that stops gophers from causing the damage. If you have a plan in place, you decide how much you're willing to allow gopher problems to cost. In fact, you can put the figure neatly into your budget as a line item.  

Five Easy And Effective Gopher Prevention Tips

Gopher prevention isn't easy or entirely effective at preventing gopher damage. But no protection, in some cases, will guarantee that gophers will move in. Our first tip demonstrates this problem.

1. Till the ground. If you are preparing a property for outdoor recreation, be sure to till the ground before applying sod. Doing so will address any hidden gopher tunnels under the ground. If you don't till the ground, you'll attract a gopher problem. Pocket gophers prefer to use tunnels that already exist, so they don't have to do all of the hard work all over again. Makes sense, right? So, if you're creating an outdoor space and you want the best chance of preventing a gopher infestation, be sure to take this important first step.

2. Install hardware cloth. If you have a garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, or vulnerable landscaping, you can guard against gopher damage with this proactive step. Install fencing material below the ground and curved outward. When gophers encounter the material and dig downward, they get the sense that there is no way under it. You may also install hardware cloth underneath a small garden to fully exclude gophers and other plant-damaging pests. As you install hardware cloth around key areas, make sure to have a foot of material above the ground as a fence to keep gophers out. They sometimes come above ground if needed. When selecting hardware cloth to use for your exclusion, get a wire mesh that is less than ½ x 1 inch.

3. Plant gopher-repelling vegetation. There are a few plants that deter gophers. The most commonly used are catmint, salvia, crown imperials, oleander, marigolds, rosemary, gopher spurge, and lavender. Put these around the borders of gardens and landscaping. When gophers come near, they may turn around and go elsewhere.

4. Remove weeds from the edge of your garden. These attract gophers and bring them in to investigate. Once they get in your garden, they'll likely find vegetables they want to eat. They prefer grass, roots, and bulbs, not vegetables. But they will eat your veggies if they are the only thing available.      

5. Apply all-natural deterrents. These work in a similar way to planting gopher-repelling vegetation—only this method can drive gophers out as well as prevent infestations. You place the organic materials near your landscaping at first, and put them close to any holes you're finding. After a day or two, place more materials further out, and eventually on the edge of your property in key areas. The materials to use are sage, thyme, peppermint, daffodils, coffee grounds, or fish oil. There is a downside. All-natural deterrents lose their strength and must be applied frequently to have an impact.

With preplanning and dedicated effort, you can prevent pocket gopher problems. But, as we pointed out, they do not provide complete protection. Gophers can still move onto your property. When they do, it is time to contact a wildlife management professional with experience in dealing with pocket gophers.   

Wildlife Control Made Easy For Homeowners In The Sacramento Region

Are you in the Sacramento Region? Consider contacting HomeShield Pest Control for gopher management. We use Integrated Pest Management methods to find solutions that are eco-friendly and sustainable. A common method we apply is the use of carbon monoxide treatments. While fumigants cause gophers to protect themselves by sealing themselves in a tunnel away from the invading gas, they don't recognize carbon monoxide as a threat. It puts them to sleep and acts as a knockdown agent. After treatment, the gas dissipates, and the gophers are no longer an active threat to you or your neighbors. We find this to be the best solution in light of the considerable harm pocket gophers cause, and their ability to grow large populations. It just doesn't make sense to remove and relocate these pests as we would other wildlife that accidentally become pests in our yards.

Another knockdown agent we use is bait. The specialized formula we use is enticing to gophers and effective enough to draw them away from the greenery on your property, such as ornamental plants, shrubs, and flowers.

Every gopher problem is somewhat unique. We can help you evaluate the economic cost and develop a solution that works best for your specific needs. Our methods meet and exceed all government regulatory standards, so, if you own a business or manage a municipality, you can count on our team to provide you with a solution that will pass inspections.

Reach out to us today and tell us about your gopher problem. We'll provide you with options over the phone or by e-mail and help you decide on the next best step for your gopher control. We're here to help.