Kill gophers? The concept keeps some folks awake at night! It doesn't have to be so hard!
How many holes in your lawn this season? One? How many plants have you lost? One? Then it’s officially time to kill gophers!
Would you like to face this challenge with a new sense of optimism? You are smarter than they are. Want to prove it?
When it’s time to choose your weapon, do you know the techniques that make a certain approach more successful?
Are you aware of important safety concerns with some products?
What are the alternatives?
It’s time for action. Don’t lose another plant. You can now use the best gopher killer for your situation, with the best results!
One natural control method is ideal, but not suitable for many people. If it’s viable for you, these guys are great, and they will work for food!
Hawks and owls, snakes, cats and some dogs can be all that you need.
In large open areas, promoting these predators to kill gophers makes sense.
However, for most homeowners, your choices will be:
Traps are very effective, but they may be more practical for smaller areas than they would be for acreage. They are less convenient to use than some extermination efforts, but they do offer the satisfaction of knowing when you've killed one of the nasty critters.
There are several styles of traps, and the manner in which they are used may depend on whether you plan to use them in the main gopher tunnel, or the exit runway that leads to the mound of dirt above ground. (More discussion on this later.)
Whatever type of trap you select, realize that your best success rate comes with placing the trap in the main runway. This is typically 5-10 inches below ground. There is no guarantee that the gopher will reappear at a mound or exit hole if you place the trap at surface level.
The exit tunnel, or lateral runway, is not always evident. Occasionally you will find an open hole at one side of a gopher mound. Usually the gopher will plug this, as shown in the photo. You may or may not be able locate and dig out this path.
If you can, follow this down to the main tunnel. If it is not obvious, poke a metal rod, like a long screwdriver, into the ground on the flat side of the dirt mound.
The tunnel could be 4-5" deep, even 10" or more. It will not be right under the dirt mound. The hole would lead down like an angled ramp, going away from the mound. Gradually explore further from the mound as you probe in the general area. The probe will push down quickly for two inches when you enter the tunnel. Then dig down with a shovel to get access and see which way the tunnel goes.
So you dig down and find the main tunnel. Do you know what direction the gopher will travel 80% of the time? That’s an easy guess. If you only use one trap, the gopher approaches from the back side. That’s why so many people are unsuccessful when they try to kill gophers with a trap.
Use two traps in one tunnel, pointing in opposite directions. You will have better results this way. If you get two traps, but put one trap in hole A and another trap in hole B, thinking you'll kill at least one gopher and maybe two, you'll be very disappointed when the more common result is two empty traps.
Instead, two traps in hole A equals one dead gopher. Then repeat with both traps in hole B. Use a methodical system like this to improve your percentages when you use traps to kill gophers.
Why should you buy two traps when you don’t know if one will work? Do you think it may not be worth the expense? If that’s your reasoning, the gopher is smarter than you! You can try setting and relocating the trap until you get lucky. Personally, I think the frustration of seeing the trap buried from behind is a lot harder to swallow than the cost of another trap.
Here are the most common traps available:
Detailed information and tips on selecting and using traps to kill gophers can be found in this article Choosing and Using Gopher Traps.
You can also access a photo tutorial on How To Set A Macabee Gopher Trap, which will be helpful for any of the twisted wire style traps.
One final word about traps. A number of people search for info using the term 'getting rid of gofers' or find a 'gofer trap'. That may be how these rascals got named, since you'll try anything to kill them, and if one method doesn't work, you'll go-fer another one!
Poison bait is an effective way to kill gophers. It may be the most practical approach if you have large areas that are continually infested. You invest a little time to distribute the bait in the tunnels. It keeps guard till the next invasion comes along. Need to kill gophers? That’s the quick and easy way.
Now for the drawback to quick and easy. Traditionally the most common poison in gopher bait was strychnine. Nasty stuff. Veterinarians shudder when they receive a sick pet and hear the words “got into some gopher bait.”
Strychnine bait is getting harder and harder to locate, even though it is the most practical treatment for folks with acreage to protect. (As bad as it sounds, there is such a small amount used in any one spot that it is listed by environmental regulatory agencies as acceptable even in crop areas.)
There is another type of bait that uses zinc phosphide as the active ingredient. Most retail products for homeowners seem to be going with this poison. It is not as toxic to pets or predatory animals from secondary poisoning. It will still kill a gopher with one feeding, as it works by causing the formation of a toxic gas in the rodent's digestive tract, a process that does not happen in mammals.
Mouse or rat bait is not typically labeled for use as a gopher killer. It still gets recommended and used that way. Whether or not the gopher eats it, or if it is safe, depends on the variety of bait (and the gopher’s dietary preferences). It can take multiple feedings before it kills any of these rodents. Learn more about how to get rid of gophers by Using Gopher Poisons and Bait.
Unlike the blow-them-up method (See this inflammatory info.), this one doesn’t involve fire or explosives. It uses a smoke ‘em and choke ‘em approach.
Small gas producing sticks or flares are lit and placed in the tunnel where they smolder. Seal that opening. Be careful not to extinguish the fuse. Look around for any other exit holes that are leaking fumes and seal those quickly.
The gopher can be killed by either the fumes themselves, or the lack of oxygen. This technique is effective about 50% of the time. You know how averages work. One guy gets lucky 75-90% of the time. The other guy is unlucky in the same proportion.
Best technique with gassers to kill gophers? Use a bunch of them, all in the same application, rather than planning to use them at intermittent intervals.
This particular brand, The Giant Destroyer Gas Bomb offers 4 larger size flares that put out a significant amount of fumes, having a good success rate.
If the gopher is not in the tunnel, there is no residual effect. Gophers may be able to smell the fumes from a distance and plug the tunnel. Setting off several flares in multiple locations will increase your odds.
The good news? The ingredients are typically fertilizer elements, so the gassers are safe to use in most locations. Just be cautious using anything that burns, especially in areas with dry grass or brush.
Perhaps learning how to kill gophers just isn’t appropriate for your needs. Does the do-it-yourself approach do you in? Then consider getting a hired gun. This may be appropriate if you:
Licensed applicators have access to materials that you cannot buy over the counter. They should be trained in where and how to use these products. They can typically get fast knockdown with certain chemicals if that is your criteria. Or they can use baits that are longer lasting.
Inquire as to their specific experience and background. A big name lawn care service, even a pest yard treatment service that is good at killing fleas, doesn’t necessarily understand gopher problems.
Get it in writing if they offer a guarantee for several months. Referrals may be your best bet for quality results.
It may be practical to bring in a professional to kill gophers when things are out of control. After this initial knock-down, you can perform the necessary work to prevent another major problem.
Is there a permanent solution to gophers? Some people claim to have found success with repellant products. These can be mechanical or electronic, organic or chemical.
They don’t work in every situation. They might be sufficiently helpful for you, at least as an alternative way to protect certain parts of your lawn, yard or garden. They won’t always eliminate the need to kill gophers.
A future article will look at these products and make recommendations. Just realize that success in moving them away from one area only sends the trouble elsewhere.
(If you happen to hear your neighbor bragging about his new solar powered gopher repeller, schedule some time on your side of the fence with your traps!
One last creative idea for you. One fellow wanted to kill gophers, without being bothered to do it himself. He offered to pay a bounty to the neighbor’s kids for each gopher they could trap. They took care of more than his problem. The entire neighborhood was cleared of the pests in a short time!
He paid out more than he expected, but it was worth it!
Be smart! Don’t settle for a lawn that looks like a mini-motocross course with mounds and holes everywhere! Happy hunting!
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