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Effective Strategies for Managing Gophers and Moles in Your Backyard

Effective Strategies for Managing Gophers and Moles in Your Backyard

Effective Strategies for Managing Gophers and Moles in Your Backyard

If you’re battling gophers and moles in your backyard, you know how frustrating these pests can be. From ruined lawns to damaged plants, their presence can cause significant harm to your garden. Luckily, there are several effective methods to control and prevent these burrowing critters. In this blog post, we’ll explore various strategies, including trapping, baiting, natural remedies, physical barriers, flooding, fumigating, electronic repellents, and when to call in professional help.

How To Tell If It's Moles or Gophers In Your Yard ?

Determining whether moles or gophers are causing damage in your yard involves examining the signs they leave behind. Moles create raised surface tunnels that look like veins running across your lawn, making the ground feel spongy. They also create molehills, which are small, volcano-shaped mounds of soil. Gophers, on the other hand, build larger, fan-shaped mounds with a visible hole off to one side and plug their tunnel entrances with soil. Their tunnels are usually deeper and less visible from the surface. Additionally, gophers tend to gnaw on plants and roots, pulling them down into their tunnels, whereas moles primarily feed on insects and grubs, leaving plant roots largely untouched. Observing these differences can help you accurately identify the pest and choose the most effective control method.

Factors That Attract Moles or Gophers to Your Yard

Understanding what attracts moles and gophers to your yard can help you prevent infestations and protect your garden. Here are some key factors that make your yard appealing to these burrowing pests:

1. Food Sources:
  • Moles: Moles are attracted to yards with abundant food sources, primarily insects like grubs, earthworms, and other soil-dwelling insects. A healthy, well-watered lawn often harbors a high population of these insects, making it an ideal feeding ground for moles.
  • Gophers: Gophers are herbivores and are drawn to gardens with a variety of plants, roots, bulbs, and vegetables. They especially favor tender plant roots and can be particularly destructive in vegetable gardens and flower beds.
2. Soil Conditions:
  • Loamy Soil: Both moles and gophers prefer loose, loamy soil, which is easier for them to dig through. Well-aerated and moist soil provides the ideal environment for tunneling and nesting.
  • Moisture Levels: Moist soil is more attractive because it tends to have a higher density of food sources like insects for moles and supports lush plant growth for gophers. Over-watering your lawn or garden can inadvertently create favorable conditions for these pests.
3. Shelter and Safety:
  • Undisturbed Areas: Moles and gophers prefer areas that are undisturbed by human activity. Gardens, lawns, and flower beds that are less frequently tended to can become prime habitats.
  • Ground Cover: Dense ground cover, including thick grass, shrubs, and mulch, provides shelter and protection from predators, making your yard more appealing to these burrowing animals.
4. Landscaping Features:
  • Gardens and Flower Beds: Well-maintained gardens with a variety of plants provide an attractive food source for gophers. Flower beds with bulbs and tubers are particularly enticing.
  • Compost Piles: Compost piles can attract both moles and gophers due to the presence of decaying organic matter, which can harbor insects and provide additional food sources.

Detailed Guide on Different Strategies:

Trapping: A Direct Approach

Trapping is one of the most direct and effective methods for removing gophers. You can use box traps or pincer-style traps, which are placed in active tunnels. To identify active tunnels, flatten the mounds and see which ones are rebuilt, indicating ongoing activity. Once you’ve located an active tunnel, set the trap and cover it with soil to block out light, making it more appealing for the gopher. Check the traps regularly to remove any captured gophers and reset the traps as needed.

For moles, scissor-jaw traps or harpoon traps are commonly used. Place these traps in the main runways, which are the straight, frequently used tunnels that moles travel through regularly. As with gopher traps, it's important to monitor mole traps frequently to ensure they are functioning correctly and humanely.

Baiting: Precision and Caution

Poison Baits:
Baiting involves using poison baits specifically formulated to target gophers and moles. These baits often contain toxic substances like strychnine or zinc phosphide. When using poison baits, it is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions meticulously to ensure safety and effectiveness. Place the bait in the main tunnels where gophers and moles are most active. Due to the toxic nature of these baits, ensure they are kept out of reach of pets, children, and non-target wildlife.

Alternatively, you can use repellents, such as castor oil-based products. These repellents can be applied to the soil or directly into the tunnels, creating an unpleasant environment that encourages gophers and moles to relocate.

Natural Remedies: Gentle Yet Effective

Natural remedies can offer a gentle yet effective way to deter gophers and moles. Certain plants, such as marigolds, castor beans, and daffodils, are known to repel these pests due to their strong scents or toxic properties. Planting these around your garden can create a natural barrier.

Encouraging natural predators like owls and cats can also help control gopher and mole populations. Owls, in particular, can be attracted by installing owl boxes in your yard, having a pet cat can create a more comprehensive and balanced approach to pest control in your garden and providing them with a place to nest and hunt. These natural predators can help reduce the pest population, creating a more balanced ecosystem in your garden.

Physical Barriers: Long-Term Protection

Installing physical barriers is an effective way to prevent gophers and moles from invading your garden. One common method is to install wire mesh or hardware cloth underground, forming a barrier that these pests cannot penetrate. This is particularly useful around the perimeter of your garden or specific plants you want to protect. The wire mesh should be buried at least 2 feet deep and extend above the ground to prevent gophers and moles from burrowing underneath. Raised garden beds with wire mesh bottoms are another effective solution, as they prevent these pests from accessing plant roots from below. These physical barriers provide a long-term solution by creating an impenetrable barrier that protects your plants.

Flooding and Fumigating: More Invasive Methods

Flooding involves filling the tunnels with water, which can drive these pests out of their burrows. This method is more effective for gophers than for moles, as moles can often find high ground within their tunnels.

Fumigating involves using gas cartridges or fumigants that release toxic gases into the tunnels. This method should be used with caution due to its environmental impact and potential hazards to non-target animals and humans. Fumigating is typically considered a last resort when other methods have failed, as it can be harmful and requires careful handling.

Electronic Repellents: Modern Solutions

Electronic repellents use ultrasonic sound waves to repel gophers and moles. These devices emit sounds that are irritating to these pests but generally inaudible to humans and pets. The effectiveness of ultrasonic devices can vary, and they may need to be placed strategically around your yard for the best results. Some users report success with these devices, while others find them less effective. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to combine electronic repellents with other strategies to enhance their effectiveness. These devices offer a non-toxic and environmentally friendly option for deterring gophers and moles from your garden.

Professional Help: The Ultimate Solution

In severe cases where gophers and moles have become a significant problem, hiring a professional pest control service can be the best solution. Professionals have experience and access to more effective tools and treatments that are not available to the general public. They can assess the situation, identify the extent of the infestation, and implement a targeted control plan. Professional services often provide ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure that the problem does not recur. Hiring a professional can save time and effort, providing a comprehensive and effective solution to persistent gopher and mole problems.

Prevention Tips: Keeping Pests at Bay

Preventing gophers and moles from becoming a problem involves maintaining a yard that is less attractive to them. Regularly mowing the lawn and trimming plants can reduce cover and food sources, making your yard less inviting. Removing food sources, such as grubs and insects, is also crucial. You can use nematodes or grub control products to reduce the population of these pests. By keeping your yard well-maintained and free of excessive food sources, you make it less inviting for gophers and moles, reducing the likelihood of an infestation. Implementing these preventive measures can help maintain a pest-free garden in the long term.


Managing gophers and moles in your backyard requires a combination of strategies tailored to your specific situation. Whether you prefer natural remedies, physical barriers, or professional help, there are effective solutions available to keep your garden healthy and pest-free. By understanding the habits of these pests and employing a mix of methods, you can protect your garden from damage and enjoy a lush, thriving outdoor space. Stay vigilant and proactive in your approach, and you'll be well on your way to a pest-free garden.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Can I use home remedies like garlic or chili powder to repel gophers and moles?
A1. Yes, sprinkling garlic or chili powder in the garden may help deter these pests. Their strong odors can make the area less attractive to gophers and moles.
Q2. Do sonic spikes actually work for gopher and mole control?
A2. Sonic spikes can be effective in some cases, emitting vibrations or sounds that drive away moles and gophers. However, results can vary, and they are often more effective when used in combination with other methods.
Q3. How deep do I need to install a physical barrier to keep gophers and moles out?
A3. Physical barriers should be buried at least 2 feet deep and extend above the ground to effectively block these burrowing pests from entering your garden.
Q4. Is it safe to use poison baits around pets and children?
A4. Poison baits can be hazardous to pets and children. It is crucial to place baits in areas inaccessible to them and follow all safety guidelines provided by the manufacturer.
Q5. How often should I check and reset traps for gophers and moles?
A5. Check traps daily and reset them as necessary. Promptly removing captured pests ensures the traps remain effective and humane.
Q6. Can overwatering my lawn attract more moles and gophers?
A6. Yes, overwatering can attract more moles and gophers as it increases the population of insects and grubs, which are primary food sources for these pests.
Q7. Are there any plants that can naturally repel gophers and moles?
A7. Plants like marigolds, castor beans, and daffodils are known to repel gophers and moles due to their strong scents or toxic properties, creating a natural deterrent in your garden.

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