The gopher–or more accurately, the pocket gopher–is one of the most common and destructive rodents here in the USA, killing plants and large trees by eating roots as they tunnel underground. I am from central California, and for three or four years I was employed by an almond farmer to eradicate the gophers that were killing his trees. I thought it would be interesting and helpful for those whose landscaping or crops are being ruined by these little pests to document my experiences, and what has worked the best for me.
I don’t like killing living creatures. I never have. If the gopher would merely eat a bite or two of tree root in passing, instead of chewing off most of the roots and killing the tree, they would save the farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. But they don’t, and gophers can kill many trees every year, plus creating tunnels that divert water into places it shouldn’t go, flooding roads and backyards. For some reason they also love to eat the plastic hoses used for drip irrigation, necessitating constant monitoring and repairs of irrigation systems. This is especially an issue with the drought we are facing. So they must be trapped, poisoned, or drowned out, and I hope my experience will help those facing gopher problems handle the job responsibly and efficiently. Here are the ways and methods I used, and their effectiveness.
The Rodenator. This is an apparatus designed to collapse the entire tunnel, as well as kill the gopher. It is done by using compressed oxygen and compressed propane, which is mixed in a chamber and forced into the gopher’s tunnel by means of a wand. A spark in the end of the wand sets off the gas mixture, creating an explosion down the length of the gopher tunnel. I used a Rodenator for two years, and I do not recommend it. The Rodenator was touted as the latest, greatest and safest gopher killing device, but it has downsides and not many benefits from my experience. First, it is somewhat dangerous. Even with care and experience, the gopher tunnel’s direction can take unexpected turns. I have had the ground explode underneath me, and was singed a few times. Secondly, it tears up the dirt at a tremendous rate. Along paths and in orchards, this is a pain and an inconvenience. It’s almost impossible to smooth the ground again as level as it was before. Thirdly, it’s not very effective. It will only explode along the tunnel as far as there is air, and gophers are expert at creating air traps and blocking their tunnels. You have to explode their tunnels over and over again before you finally get them, and even then often you don’t kill the gopher. Last of all, the equipment is delicate and rather expensive to maintain. You can view a promotional video at the bottom of this article.
Poison. I didn’t use poison very much, but it can be effective. Amdro Mole and Gopher Bait is the only kind I’ve seen results from. You want to use caution though, and only place poison where domestic animals can’t reach it. It is readily available at Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Black Hole Rodent traps. These traps work, and are the most humane that I know of. They are set in the end of the gopher tunnel, and a small amount of grass or local weeds pushed invitingly into the end as bait. The gopher puts it’s head in the trap to nibble the bait, which springs, breaking it’s neck with a small wire cable. These traps are the safest to use around children and pets, and will not hurt anyone. You can order them off of Amazon.com for $15.95. Here is a link http://www.amazon.com/Various-Black-Hole-Gopher-Trap/dp/B000P9F1JQ
Maccabee Gopher traps. These are what I used commercially in the almond orchards, and are by far the most effective of all. I caught 415 gophers in one year with these traps. They can be somewhat cruel, because if the wire prongs don’t spring exactly on the gopher’s neck or back, it can catch a foot or the belly, and cause suffering until you come along to dispatch the gopher with a shovel. You can minimize this though by checking your trap twice a day,once early in the morning and once in the evening. This trap is made of very stiff wire, with two prongs that grab the gopher as it passes by. You dig out the end of the tunnel, and set the trap as far into the hole as you can reach. You must attach a strong cord from the trap to a stake above ground, or the gopher will drag it away. I emphasize a strong cord, because the gopher has a very good set of teeth and will chew it off if you aren’t careful. I recommend doubled or tripled nylon tree string, or something similar. If you don’t mind the cost, a thin metal cable will do very well. These traps cost about $7-10 each online, or $11.95 for a set of 2 at Home Depot or Lowes. They are safe for the environment, unlike poison or explosions; however do not use where children or dogs can dig them up and possibly hurt themselves.
I hope this information has been helpful! I would be interested in any comments from people who also have experience in this area. Happy hunting!