How to Trap a Gopher: A Humane and Effective Method

Small rodents can make a big mess in your garden. They put all the dirt on the surface, harming trees and destroying flowerbeds. In this article, I will explain how to trap a gopher, taking a close look at various methods of fighting these pests.

Guide on Trapping Gopher
  1. Learn if there are any restrictions on catching and releasing gophers in your state.
  2. Find a fresh mound in the yard.
  3. Put a cage trap over or near it.
  4. Check it twice a day and wait until a gopher gets trapped.

How to Trap a Gopher?

Gophers are furry rodents, no more than 14 inches long and weighing about 8 ounces. These animals dig underground tunnel systems to live in. Therefore, they can improve the quality of the soil by loosening it. Easy access to air and water makes the ground more fertile. At the same time, the tunnels are the main reason why gophers belong to pests. The changes tunnels bring to the landscape might seem insignificant, but they can influence households and farms a lot.

  • Gophers gnaw tree roots, killing small ones and weakening big ones.
  • They create mounds and prevent flowers from growing.
  • These rodents can gnaw engineering nets like water-supplying tubes interrupting irrigation. They also can knock out electrical and communications cables.
  • Gophers feed on crops and vegetables, damaging harvest.

How to identify a gopher problem?

Gophers are not the only kind of pest that lives underground and turns your lawn inside out. You can easily confuse them with moles, for example. Here are some signs to clarify who lives on your site.

  • When gophers create a mound, they usually push ground in the shape of a fan. In turn, a conical mound with a hole in the center most likely belongs to a mole.
  • Unlike moles, gophers tend to plug holes. If a mound is solid and has no visible holes, you are dealing with a gopher.
  • Gophers break the soil up when they dig a tunnel, so if you see clumps, this is a mole’s work.
  • Pay attention to the mounds’ pattern: gophers create a few mounds near each other, while mole’s mounds have at least 6 feet between them.

What attracts gophers

Growing fruits and vegetables in your garden makes it attractive to gophers since they are mainly vegetarians. Even grass and flowers can drive their attention. As any animal that spends most of its life underground, gophers have a strong sense of smell.

Trap a Gopher

Thus, the stronger the smell plants in your garden have, the more likely you find this pest once. Gophers also prefer places with accessible water, so pounds are an additional reason for gophers to settle.

How to catch a gopher: 3 methods

One tunnel system belongs to one gopher. They are individual animals and share their space only during mating season. There are various ways to catch a gopher that lives in your yard, including lethal and non-lethal. Non-lethal methods are a priority for many people, yet after you catch a pest, you need to release it without harming other households and, more importantly, frames and public lands. Sanitary rules vary from city to city, so check how to do it legally.

  1. Mechanical methods mean various traps for gophers; the most humane is a cage. They are installed near a fresh mound, and when an animal leaves its tunnel and enters a cage, the door closes behind it. Some people put bait inside to catch a gopher faster. You can use any vegetable; the stronger it smells, the better.
  2. Instead of catching the pest, you can make its tunnels unsuitable for living by putting odor items inside. Pet waste is a natural repellent that can keep gophers away from your yard. Fish, caper spurge, castor and peppermint oils are remedies against these animals. However, their efficiency is not proven, and they can also harm pets.
  3. Professionals use toxic bait like two-percent zinc phosphide. It affects the liver, kidney, and central nervous system and belongs to lethal methods. It is dangerous both to animals and to humans and mainly attracts birds.

Preventing gophers

Since gophers are attracted only by blossoming gardens, it is challenging to keep them away. They prefer loose, sandy soil and can be found in the southeast, midwest, and western states. If you plan to grow vegetables and know that your garden is a suitable habitat for these pests, preventing damage takes much less effort than dealing with the consequences.

A fence is an effective and humane way of repelling gophers. An ordinary wire mesh prevents them from getting on your site from the surface and underground. Burry it 10-12 inches deep to stop a gopher from digging under your lawn.


There are also a variety of recommendations for trapping pocket gophers, yet some of them never proved their efficiency or can be applied only by professionals.

  • Fumigation with smoke or gas cartridges can’t help to get rid of these pests since they can close a tunnel or escape it quickly. Although aluminum phosphide is a proven remedy, its use is restricted and requires a state license.
  • Vibrating stakes hardly influence gophers, especially in the urban environment. These animals are used to the vibrations and noise cars, lawnmowers, and people provide.
  • Gas explosive devices can destroy the tunnel system and kill the gopher, but if you use them wrong, they can also damage your property and lead to injuries.

FAQ on How to Catch a Gopher Alive

fluffy gopher eats

If you are determined to catch a pest on your own without hiring a specialist, here are some basic questions you need to know before starting.

What is the best bait for gophers?

Gophers are vegetarians, so they are mainly attracted to vegetables and grass. Since they live underground, these animals have a strong sense of scent, so food with a strong smell is the best bait.

What is the best trap to catch a gopher?

Cage traps allow trapping pocket gophers humanely. Unlike chemical methods, they are safe for pets and never spoil the soil.

How to use gopher traps?

Cage traps are installed above a fresh mound. When a gopher comes to a surface and enters the cage, the door closes. You can put bait inside, but it is not necessary.

What time are gophers most active?

Gophers are active during the day, but they rarely leave their tunnels. These animals are less active during seasons with extreme temperatures, but they never hibernate. The mating season lasts from spring to fall.

Best Way to Fight Gophers

The gopher’s net of tunnels harms trees and plants growing on the plot. They are vegetarians and mainly settle in gardens with vegetables. Gophers are not herd animals, so one tunnel system usually belongs to one individual. There are a lot of ways to get rid of these pests, including traps, chemicals, and noise sources. Cage traps are considered effective and humane since they leave a gopher alive, can’t hurt pets, and don’t affect the soil.

Which method would you choose to fight gophers? Please share your suggestions.

Also read:


  • Pocket Gophers (Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California)
  • Managing Pocket Gopher Damage (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service–Wildlife Services)
  • Zinc Phosphide/Phosphine (Oregon State University)


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Nicholas Martin

Nicholas Martin

I am Nicholas Martin, and I am an entomologist. I combine the insect survey work with the consultation for private pest control agencies. My narrow specializations are both urban pests and agricultural pests. I studied their control over the previous 25 years. More about Nick

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