The Gopher’s Senses (Vision, Hearing, and Smell)

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Published on August 1, 2022
Last Updated on October 12, 2023

Gophers are furry rodents most frequently found in North and Central America. Even though considered pests, they are a crucial part of the ecosystem as they incorporate plant and fecal materials into the soil, improving its fertility.

These tiny rodents are known for their digging behavior. They spend most of their time underground and hardly ever leave their tunnels. 

This might lead you to be curious about the sharpness of their senses. Let’s dig in and learn more about how these mysterious creatures smell, see and hear!

Do Gophers Have Developed Senses?

Gophers have a highly-developed and unique sense of touch that is essential for their everyday lives. Their sense of smell is also well-adapted to the environment and is crucial for survival.

On the other hand gophers have poor eyesight and hearing because of the lack of sound and light entering their burrows. They simply don’t need a good sense of vision and hearing, because they spend all of their time in their tunnel systems.

How Do Gophers Find Their Way In Their Tunnels?

A gopher can constantly sense its environment because of their whiskers (vibrissae) and sensitive, sparsely-haired tail. Their delicate tails and face whiskers react to anything they touch, telling them which way to go. 

Both serve as navigational aids that guide these creatures in the dim tunnel networks. Their whiskers are used to move forward, while the tails help navigate backward inside the tunnels.

Can Gophers See Well?

Gophers have poor eyesight. Since they depend on their other senses, primarily touching and smelling, they don’t require sharp vision. It is safe to assume that natural selection didn’t prioritize their eyes like it’s the case with land animals, which instead developed a better vision in the dark to adjust to the dark settings of their burrows. 

Compared to other fossorial rodents (animals that live underground), the gopher’s eyes do not seem to be that reduced in size. This might be because of the light that enters their burrow and because of the fact that they do, sometimes, emerge from their tunnels.

However, the light that enters their burrows is very limited; which is why their eyes have a very thin retina. This results in a limited visual perception or range. They can use their limited vision when they briefly navigate on the surface on rare occasions. 

Are Gophers Blind? Do They Even Have Eyes? 

Gophers are not completely blind. They surprisingly have fully functional eyes despite living in a dark environment; however, their vision is very limited. Regardless, they can still use their eyes to observe the surroundings near them. 

However, gophers are born blind. During the first few weeks of their lives, pups (baby gophers) solely depend on their mothers for survival and nurturing. They will slowly open their eyes after weaning and will eventually gain their vision.

Can Gophers See Colors?

Yes, regardless of their poor vision, they can see colors. Gophers have cone cells in their retina, implying that they are not completely color blind. Only animals that completely lack cone cells don’t have functional color vision. 

The gopher’s cone cells can detect a particular range of color, even though they have weak eyesight. However, the colors we humans see are significantly different from what gophers can see, and it’s safe to assume that, given that they live in the dark, they can’t see as many colors as we humans.

Are Gophers Sensitive To Light?

Yes, gophers are sensitive to light. Their eyes have the presence of rod cells that are responsible for light sensitivity. Their light sensitivity is another reason we rarely see them out of their tunnels. 

Gophers feel more comfortable and safe inside their dim burrows because any light penetrating the burrow indicates danger. There are instances when the light entering their burrow will bother them so much that they immediately seal it with soil.

Can You Deter Gophers From Your Yard With Lighting?

Using lighting alone could be challenging to deter gophers from your yard. They will just try to cover the light source or move further into their tunnels where the light doesn’t reach them. 

However, you can use some lighting to lure the gopher into a trap. You can dig a hole in a gopher’s tunnel where light can enter and place a live trap to capture them. 

The gopher will surely go there to cover the hole once it is bothered. You can release the baited gopher away from your property. This is a very humane and ethical method of removing gophers from your gardens – just be sure to release the gopher where it doesn’t cause problems for somebody else.

Can Gophers Hear Well?

Gophers have poor hearing. They have a restricted but not totally absent sense of hearing. The underground environment where they live is really quiet, and they don’t have much need for listening.

Gophers’ restricted hearing makes their ability to locate sound very minimal. But they don’t need to have a keen hearing when they’re living underground.

Are Gophers Deaf? Do They Have Ears?

Gophers are not deaf and have tiny ears present on the side of their heads, parallel to their eyes. They can hear and distinguish loudspeakers despite their poor hearing and will consider moving away if a constant noise bothers their ears. 

However, they are also born deaf and their ears are also not visible at birth. Gophers will eventually develop their ears and senses after several weeks of nurturing from their mothers. Adult gophers have small external ears adapted for their underground lifestyle.

Are Gophers Sensitive To Noise?

No. All fossorial or subterranean rodents that are studied have poor sensitivity to airborne sounds. However, this does not mean that they are totally unbothered by different noises. This the gopher’s hearing is limited, but not totally absent and they still hate loud shrills and can become agitated by other noises like wind chimes or radio. 

Can You Deter Gophers From Your Yard With Noise?

Yes. Surprisingly, even though their ears are not that sensitive to sound, having natural noisemakers in your home will definitely irritate them. I suggest you put a loudspeaker or use a lawn mower near the entrance of their tunnels to annoy those gophers significantly. 

Various ultrasonic pest control options are available if you want to try more methods to drive them out. You can use a sonic spike (link to amazon) buried in the ground that produces irritating sounds for gophers, causing them to flee. 

The sound will aggravate them, and they may instinctively think that they need to escape from the loud source, which they may confuse as predators.  

Do Gophers Have A Good Sense Of Smell?

Yes, gophers have a keen sense of smell that helps them compensate for their poor vision and hearing. Their sense of smell is vital for survival as it helps them navigate and know their surroundings. It is also crucial in determining when it is safe to forage for food, and it’s useful for finding a mate, and for sniffing out any predators.

What Do Gophers Use Their Sense Of Smell For?

A gopher relies significantly on its sense of smell to find and locate food. Even though the food that gophers eat (roots, bulbs, grass, and vegetables) doesn’t exactly run away, they need a sharp sense of smell to distinguish the soil as they dig towards their food. 

Gophers can easily smell what soils have the right roots in them, and this helps them to dig and forage for the food source efficiently.

In addition, they also use their sense of smell to determine if there are predators nearby. Gophers will immediately jump back into their tunnel as soon as they catch the scent of nearby predators.

Do Some Smells Attract Gophers?

Yes, gophers prefer herbaceous vegetation, bushes, and trees. They are attracted to the smell of plants, specifically the fleshy stems and roots. Gophers will generally drag the entire plant into their tunnels from below, and eat it comfortably away from any dangers.

They also like the smell of rotten fruits and grass.

How Sensitive Are Gophers To Smells?

Gophers have a very sensitive sense of smell. They have an impressive ability to distinguish between the smell of the soil that grows plants and soil where they’re less likely to find food. 

Gophers also dislike strong smells, and if a gopher is put off by an overwhelming smell when burrowing, it may choose to dig elsewhere.

What Are Some Smells That Gophers Don’t Like?

Gophers don’t like herbs with strong smells, including several aromatic plants and herbs that also exist in concentrated form as essential oils. In addition, they also don’t like strong odors such as fish oils. 

These strong smells hinder their foraging behaviors. It will make them have a hard time differentiating foods from others and cannot identify if there are predators around. Hence, they will move to a more peaceful location. 

Can You Deter Gophers From Your Yard With Smells?

Gophers are annoyed by strong smells, and these can successfully be used to repel these rodents. Here are some of the scents that gophers hate, which you can use to drive them away from your yard:


Lavender is renowned for its capacity to cause troublesome rodents and pests to flee, especially when it comes to gophers. Although the plant’s sweet aroma is pleasing and intense for humans, gophers find it unpleasant. 

You can help keep gophers out of your yard by planting these plants along the margins of your property or in spots where you may have noticed mounds from gopher burrows.

Rosemary and thyme

Although the scent of rosemary and thyme is attractive to humans, gophers do not enjoy it because it overpowers their delicate sense of smell. Thus, you can use either the plants or the essential oils to deter gophers.


Gophers dislike the fragrance of sage because it prevents them from sniffing out food and detecting danger or predators with their noses. 

You can plant sage either in the ground or in pots. Sage is also a beautiful addition to rosemary in the garden. Along with serving as a gopher deterrent, growing these herbs around your yard provides fresh herbs for your pantry.


Due to the eucalyptus’ strong scent, it is considered a good gopher deterrent. A gopher would avoid any plant with an overpowering aroma, and eucalyptus is one of the strongest-smelling plants you can identify. 

Pure eucalyptus oil is one of the simplest ways to take advantage of this tree’s repelling qualities. You can create a homemade spray that repels gophers by mixing 10-15 drops of eucalyptus oil with one cup of water. Wherever you see gopher holes or other disturbed areas in your yard, use this spray to perfume the area with eucalyptus.

Peppermint Oil

Gophers can become irritated by the intensely potent fragrance of peppermint, particularly peppermint oil, which makes them avoid the area. 

There are two ways to utilize peppermint oil to deter gophers. You can either use an essential oil concentrate or an all-purpose, natural pest control spray.


One of the most common scents that gophers detest is pine. It is frequently used in several gopher repellents available in stores. Additionally, you can also create a spray with its essential oils. 

Another innovative strategy to use pine to deter gophers is by planting pine trees or placing other plants close to existing pine trees. The vigorous aromatic plants previously mentioned are an excellent choice. 

Castor oil

Animals like gophers and other troublesome pests find the taste and aroma of castor oil particularly overpowering. You can use castor oil to create a homemade gopher-repellent spray. 

This solution combines three parts castor oil and 1 part dish soap with 3 gallons of water in a big container. Use this in areas of your property where gophers are burrowing. It would be best if you tried to locate the gophers’ primary tunnel, and just pour it down there!


Geraniums have a potent aroma that keeps gophers from digging near them and eating them while in your yard. The essential oil of this plant can be used to make a homemade spray. You can also soak some cotton balls with it and place them in different areas around your property. 

Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds work well and are simple to use as a gopher deterrent. If you drink coffee, it’s as easy as keeping the grounds from your morning brew. 

The application is quite simple. Gently pour some coffee grounds into the gopher tunnels you have discovered in your yard to utilize them as a gopher repellent. 

Put some soil over the holes. The gophers won’t dig there again because of the acidity of the coffee grounds. While this approach might not solve your gopher issue entirely, it will be a valuable supplement to your gopher removal efforts.

Are Gophers Affected By Human Smells?

Gophers are sensitive to the smell of human sweat, so it is essential to wear gloves when setting a trap to prevent the scent of your sweat from attaching to the live trap. 


  • Tommy

    Hi, I'm Tommy! I'm the founder of I am an animal enthusiast and self-proclaimed wildlife expert as well as a dog trainer and breeder of the breed Löwchen. Since I was a kid, I’ve been wildly fascinated by animals, both from growing up in a rural area where there were always animals around, but especially from seeing them in the wild.

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