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Master Gardener: Tactics to remove gophers from your yard
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Master Gardener: Tactics to remove gophers from your yard

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There are mounds of dirt appearing in my yard like something is digging. How do I stop this? — S.H.

Your problem can probably be traced back to gophers — pocket gophers, to be more specific. Pocket gophers are most active in the spring and the fall. They are called pocket gophers because they have fur-lined pouches on each of their cheeks they use to carry food back to their underground dens.

The mounds of dirt let you know you have gophers actively digging in your yard looking for food. These mounds of dirt are usually semi-circular and can be as large as 18-24 inches in diameter and approximately 6 inches high. Active gophers can make up to 200 mounds like these in a year.

Favorite gopher foods include roots of trees, grass, seeds, leaves, tender stems, tubers and bulbs.

In larger landscapes such as a field, we tend to recommend that you just live and let live since these gophers are loosening up potentially compacted soil while also providing a food source for several of our larger predators. However, if they are damaging your lawn or perhaps eating the roots of your plants, there are some things you can do to minimize their impact.

Poison grain is available as a treatment option, and it’s pretty simple to use. You just need to locate the gopher tunnel, make an opening, pour some of the poison grain in the tunnel, and close the opening back up. Please note that this strategy is not recommended if you have outdoor pets since they might suffer unfortunate consequences if they were to get into the poison grain.

Traps are a good way to control gophers, and there are several types available. After you get your trap and are confident you know how to operate it properly, search for the freshest mound of dirt. Fresh mounds will be darker in color since they still have moisture from beneath the surface.

Once you have found the mound, push a screwdriver or something into the ground surrounding the mound until you find the tunnel. When you find the tunnel, dig out a portion to allow for the placement of your traps. I say traps because you will have better luck using two traps: one facing each direction in the tunnel.

Also, always tie a brick or something above ground to your trap because trapped gophers can take off with your trap and you’ll never see it again. After setting your traps, cover the hole with something so that no light shines into the tunnel.

Typically, a gopher will sense that their tunnel has been damaged and will try to make repairs. If your traps sit there with no action for two or three days, your gopher has moved on and you will need to repeat this process near a fresh mound of dirt. Good luck.

You can get answers to all your gardening questions by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Help Line at 918-746-3701, dropping by our Diagnostic Center at 4116 E. 15th St. or by emailing us at mg@tulsamastergardeners.org.


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