Are Pocket Gophers Pests? How Do I Repel Them From My Yard and Property?

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Pocket gophers are burrowing rodents that play an important role in our ecosystem. By burrowing through the ground, they help aerate the soil and increase soil fertility. However, some people may think gophers are pests because they mess up their gardens and farms.

Gophers are not truly pests because they are beneficial to the soil. However, having too many gophers on one property can become a nuisance, so you can repel gophers by using humane methods like natural smells, humane traps, and sounds.

Do you want to learn about more reasons why people think gophers are vermin, how gophers help the environment, and how to repel gophers? Join us at Floofmania as we present everything you need to know about gophers being pests and how to safely repel them from your property.

Are Pocket Gophers Considered Vermin?

A pocket gopher above ground with barred teeth next to plants, pebbles and withered leaves.

Technically, gophers are not vermin because they are simply burrowing rodents. Vermin are defined as any wild animals that are deemed to be harmful to game, farm animals, and crops. Since they are rodents, some people may believe that automatically makes gophers vermin.

However, gophers can become a pest under certain circumstances. Pocket gophers all over the US may find their way into farmlands, yards, etc., and the owners of those properties will call gophers pests because of the havoc they might cause with their digging.

You can learn about where you can find pocket gophers in our other article, “Where Can Gophers Be Found?

Why Are Pocket Gophers Considered Pests?

Gophers are not inherently pests, but an overpopulation of gophers in a given area can make them a nuisance to people, property, and other animals. Here are a few examples of how gophers can become bothersome:

Pocket Gophers Destroy Property

While gophers are meant to burrow, they can start burrowing in the wrong places. For instance, gophers can expose tree roots from excessive burrowing, which can greatly harm the tree.

Gophers can also make a mess out of gardens, yards, and farmland. They can start digging through the soil and create holes all over the property, causing the soil to be uneven and messy.

The more serious issue gophers can cause damage to homes and buildings. Gophers can dig underneath a house and start creating various tunnels under the home, causing the foundation to sink, and concrete and brickwork to crack. 

Holes in a yard dug by pocket gophers.

Pocket Gophers Can Carry Diseases

Another reason why gophers may be called pests is that gophers can carry diseases. Typically, you will only get infected by a gopher if the gopher bites you.

Some diseases that gophers can carry include:

  • Hantavirus
  • Leptospirosis
  • LCM (lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus)

People may assume that gophers carry rabies, but it is very rare for rodents to have rabies. Additionally, rodents are not known to give humans rabies, but you should always get checked by a doctor immediately if a gopher bites you.

Pocket Gophers Eat Roots 

One of the main reasons why people call gophers pests is that they love to eat roots, which can be troublesome for farmers and home gardeners. A gopher’s diet is mostly made up of herbaceous plant roots and bulbs, such as potatoes, beets, parsnips, turnips, etc. 

You can find out what other food pocket gophers eat by reading our article, “What Do Gophers Eat?

Are Pocket Gophers Bad For Your Yard?

Gophers are not inherently bad for your yard. A gopher that occasionally passes through your yard can increase soil fertility and aeration, which will help your plants flourish in the long run.

However, having gophers as regular visitors to your yard can be a nuisance. Gophers that dig multiple tunnels under your yard can weaken your yard’s integrity and create holes all around.

Gophers can also make your yard look bad because they create piles of dirt as they dig tunnels. They can also pull the roots of your grass down to eat the grass, causing brown patches of grass.

If you have precious plants in your yard, they are at risk when a gopher is in your yard. These rodents will pull your plants like flowers by the root until they are underground and eat the roots.

Can Pocket Gophers Also Be Beneficial In Some Way?

When gophers are in their native areas, they are very beneficial because they move large amounts of soil. Moving soil helps make the soil more fertile, aerates the soil, and reduces soil compaction.

Soil compaction is a huge issue for vegetation in the soil. Compact soil will make it harder for water to filter and drain throughout plant roots. Additionally, compact soil will make it harder for plant roots to grow into the ground.

Gophers fertilize soil whenever they burrow because they mix animal feces and plant materials into the soil. They also bring minerals from deep under the soil up to further fertilize the soil.

How Do Pest Control Companies Get Rid Of Pocket Gophers?

How a pest control company deals with gophers will depend on the company’s values. Unfortunately, some companies will use lethal gas in the gopher’s burrows and shut off the holes to trap the gophers until they pass away.

Luckily, there are pest control companies that opt for more humane ways of getting rid of gophers. For instance, some companies will use a no-kill trapping method to trap gophers safely in cages and relocate them far away from your property.

Can You Get Rid Of A Gopher From Your Property Yourself?

You can try to remove gophers from your property by yourself, but it will take more patience and effort. Here are some humane methods you can try to safely get rid of gophers.

Catch A Pocket Gopher In A Trap (And Release It Far Away)

You can use live-trap cages that gophers can walk into, which automatically shut close once the gopher enters the cage. 

To get a gopher into the trap, you will need to put bait to lure them in. You can use a variety of vegetables like lettuce as bait. However, some people say peanut butter is the best bait because the gophers will not run away from the cage after they take the bait.

Depending on the trap you have, your trap will either manually or automatically lock the gopher in the cage once it is in.

Next, you need to go very far away with the gopher to safely release it into the wild. Ideally, you should go at least 5-10 miles away from your property before you release a gopher.

Additionally, be sure to be considerate of where you are releasing the gopher. You do not want to release the gopher into another person’s yard, farm, etc. It is best to look for forests or woodlands to release gophers in.

Deter Pocket Gophers With Natural Smells

If you want to naturally deter gophers, you can plant strong-smelling plants in your yard that can keep them away, such as:

  • Thyme
  • Geranium
  • Iris
  • Daffodils 
  • Sage
  • Garlic 

Predator urine, such as coyote urine or wolf urine, can be an excellent deterrent as well. While it may also smell bad to you, gophers will steer clear from any place they think a predator marked as their territory.

Oddly enough, gophers really dislike castor oil. You can spray a mix of castor oil and water on your yard, and gophers that smell or taste the castor oil will flee.

Deter Pocket Gophers With Sounds

Gophers have very sensitive hearing, and will quickly scurry away if they hear shrill or loud sounds. Some sounds and tools you can use in your yard to deter gophers include:

  • Wind chimes
  • Radio static
  • Sonic repellers

Deter Pocket Gophers With A Cat or Dog

Cats and dogs are considered predators of a gopher, and a gopher may leave an area if they think a predator is there.

However, we do not encourage having your dog or cat try to hunt the gopher – your lawn may become an even bigger mess than it already was!

Instead, you can find the gopher’s hole and place your pet’s poop into the hole. The gopher’s heightened sense of smell will tell them that it is a predator’s feces, and it’ll most likely decide to leave the area.

Don’t Try To Flood The Pocket Gopher’s Hole

Never try to flood the gopher’s hole. Firstly, it is inhumane and does not guarantee that the gophers will not come back to dig holes in your yard again.

Secondly, flooding a gopher hole can damage your property. You would be filling the ground with way too much water, which can ruin your soil and whatever vegetation you have in your yard.

Pocket gopher emerging from its hole with its teeth visible.

Always Go For The Humane Method Of Repelling Pocket Gophers

Even if gophers are terrorizing your garden, it is always best to try to be humane if you want gophers out of your property. Gophers are, after all, innocent animals that are important parts of the ecosystem. Gophers help make the soil fertile and increase the formation of new soil in a given area. 

Additionally, trying methods that are fatal to gophers could leave you with more mess to handle because you need to get rid of the gopher’s bodies afterward.

Author: Allison Marie Dinglasan

Hello! I am Allison, an avid writer for 6 years with a deep interest in animals since I was a child. I grew up on Animal Planet and animal books and often did rescue work for stray and sickly cats, dogs, and birds in my area, which led to over 60 rescues. My future goal is to be a veterinarian to have a more hands-on approach to helping and learning about animals!

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