What Do Gophers Eat? (Your Questions Answered)

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Published on July 19, 2022
Last Updated on October 11, 2023

Gophers are burrowing rodents known for tunneling through the ground. They’re found throughout North America in the wild and, probably, in your gardens. While you likely know that gophers love to dig underground, you may also want to know what gophers eat.

Since they spend most of their time underground, gophers mostly eat the thick, fleshy roots of herbaceous plants, such as fruit tree roots. Gophers also love to feed on various vegetables and bulbs that grow underground, like sweet potatoes, carrots, and turnips. 

While gophers tend to rely on roots and underground plants for food, there is a lot more to their diets. Let’s take a closer look!

What Do Gophers Eat?

While the exact gopher diet can vary on the species, most of their diets will rely heavily on vegetation. Gophers consume a variety of vegetation, such as vegetables, bulbs, roots, or other foods that are found underground.

A gopher’s diet also depends on the season. While gophers will eat roots and tubers year-round, gophers may eat some fruits in the summer if they venture above ground.

On occasion, gophers are also known to eat insects and meat if they get the chance, however, gophers will never seek out animal protein specifically. Generally, they only eat insects and meat if they are starving and see them nearby.

Are Gophers Herbivores, Carnivores, or Omnivores?

Gophers are generally considered herbivores, but you might call them omnivores since they can be opportunistic meat eaters in some cases. Generally, gophers will focus on eating plants whenever they can, but they are also known to occasionally eat insects and small animals.

Typically, gophers will only resort to eating anything that is alive if they are hungry and have the opportunity for an easy meal. Otherwise, gophers will never directly look for live food, or go hunting.

Some gopher species are known to be strict herbivores, however, such as the pocket gopher. Pocket gophers are more likely to be found in vegetable gardens and farms, giving them lots of opportunities to remain herbivores. 

What Are Gophers’ Favorite Foods?

Normally, a gopher’s favorite food is various plant roots. Gophers love to dine on the fleshy roots, tubers, rhizomes, and bulbs that are found underground.

They also really like fruit tree roots since they often are fleshy and tender. However, they will normally go for any kind of roots that are succulent and fresh.

Moreover, gophers love to eat any vegetable that grows underground, such as:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Turnips 
  • Rutabagas 

Whenever a gopher goes above-ground searching for food, they love snacking on pumpkins, since pumpkins, including the thick stems and vines, offer gophers lots of nutrients and moisture. 

What Kind Of Food Is Best For Gopher Bait?

If you’re trying to catch a gopher, generally, choosing succulent and fleshy roots is the best bait. However, these roots need to be fairly fresh as gophers will not usually eat dried-out roots.

Plus, gophers will go for a variety of vegetables, including alfalfa, carrots, and lettuce. Some fruit will also attract gophers, like apples and bananas.

Moreover, certain processed foods can catch a gopher’s interest, particularly peanut butter.

Will Gophers Eat Flowers and Bulbs?

Gophers will eat certain flowers and bulbs given that they do not have strong scents. For instance, dandelions and alfalfa are some of the preferred flowers that gophers will eat, but they will stay away from lavender plants because they dislike the smell.

Gophers will also go for any flower that has a thicker root system, such as sunflowers, roses, and dahlia. If the root system is fine, the gopher will be unlikely to eat them, because it’s too much work to eat around the dry soil and get to the small roots.

Do Gophers Eat Succulents?

Gophers will eat succulents since they are opportunistic eaters.

However, gophers do not normally go for succulents since most succulents have shallow and fine root systems. Moreover, gophers are unlikely to eat the whole succulent since some succulents, especially cacti, have spines or thorns.

Gophers will, however, sometimes eat succulents if there is a short supply of other food.

Will Gophers Eat Herbs?

Usually, gophers will not eat herbs since most herbs have very strong smells that deter gophers, such as thyme or oregano. Plus, most herb plants have very small and thin root systems that gophers will not be tempted by.

They generally don’t go specifically for the leaves or stems of the plants that they eat but choose their food based on their roots.

Do Gophers Eat Fruit Bushes?

Gophers will eat fruit bushes, especially if the fruit bushes have thick root systems like blueberry plants.

However, it is highly unlikely that a gopher will come above ground to eat the fruits of the bushes, especially if they are berries. Berries are not often eaten by gophers, likely because they do not enjoy the taste. 

Do Gophers Eat Tree Bark?

Occasionally, gophers will eat tree bark, especially if the gopher has already eaten most of the tree’s edible roots. Normally, gophers will eat the tree’s inner bark around the tree’s trunk until they reach the wood.

Only the inner bark of growing trees or the bark on new branches is edible to the gopher, however. The hard and tough outer bark is not something that you’d be likely to see a gopher eat.

Do Gophers Eat Grain?

Gophers do not eat grains like oats, wheat, etc. because they do not get enough food from their root systems.

Why don’t gophers eat the grains, though? While the grains might be able to provide the gopher with the nutrients it needs, grains grow in an environment that gophers generally can’t get to since they’re primarily underground creatures.

In fact, some farmers plant grains around other plants that gophers like in order to deter gophers from their farms!

Do Gophers Eat Fruit?

Generally, gophers will not seek out fruit in the wild, but if they happen to find some apples or other fruits on the ground or close to their burrows, they will happily jump at the occasion, especially if there is not much food available. 

Generally, gophers prefer eating roots, so they will be more likely to go directly for the roots of the fruit-bearing plant since the roots are underground. 

Do Gophers Eat Nuts?

When given the chance, gophers will eat nuts, but they will likely not seek out nuts specifically. Nuts are often too hard and dry for gophers, especially since they prefer foods that offer moisture and are found underground. As such, gophers will not usually eat true nuts that are grown on trees.

However, peanuts are not true nuts and are grown underground, so gophers do actually eat peanuts.

Will Gophers Eat My Vegetable Garden?

Gophers will eat veggies found in your vegetable garden. In fact, gophers are known for destroying vegetable gardens since they dig tunnels through your garden and rip out your crops, sometimes directly from their tunnels!

Usually, gophers will eat your vegetable garden from underground since they love to eat the roots of various plants. They will also readily eat any plant that grows underground, such as carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

While gophers will prefer plants that grow underground, such as carrots, potatoes, asparagus, and the plants’ roots, they do not stop there.

Gophers will occasionally pop out of their tunnels to eat the parts of the plants that grow above ground too, or even pull the plants down into their tunnels when they’ve finished with the roots!

Do Pocket Gophers Eat Soil?

Technically, gophers do not eat soil because they dig tunnels through the soil to find food under the soil. Gophers close their lips behind their teeth while they dig to keep soil out of their mouths, but a little dirt always gets in.

It’s not a problem, though, since the dirt just passes through the gopher’s digestive system. It might swallow it, but a gopher can’t really digest, or “eat” soil.

Gophers Remain Uninterested In Many Plants

While gophers are not traditionally picky eaters, there are some foods that they will be uninterested in. 

Generally, gophers do not usually go for plants that have fine root systems because they are dry and full of soil. For instance, gophers are not huge fans of the tomato’s thinner root systems, but they will eat it if there is a shortage of food, in which case they also might eat the stems and the fruit of the plant.

Moreover, gophers do not often try to eat food above-ground at the risk of being spotted by a predator. They’re not very good at moving around above ground either.

However, they will eat above-ground plants if there is not enough food available underground. Sometimes they’ll try to pull the plants down into the tunnel by excavating directly under the plant!

Additionally, gophers can sometimes eat grass, but it will not be their first choice since grass is very thin and not very nutritious. Instead, they will forage for roots and tubers before they resort to eating grass.

What Are Some Foods That Gophers Don’t Like?

While gophers usually love plants that grow underground, onions, garlic, and shallots seem to be their least favorite. It is likely because these plants have a pungent and strong smell that gophers are not fans of.

Gophers tend to steer clear of any flowers and herbs that have a strong smell. For instance, they will not enjoy eucalyptus, daffodils, lavender, sage, thyme, marigold, and rosemary plants.

Are Some Plants, Vegetables, or Bulbs Poisonous To Gophers?

Currently, it is unknown if any plants, vegetables, or bulbs are poisonous to gophers. However, many plants can deter gophers because they dislike the taste or smell, but they will not necessarily be poisoned or intoxicated from eating them.

Generally, poison has to be directly added to the plants to harm a gopher. For instance, some farmers coat strychnine on oats to poison gophers. However, gophers will not usually eat oats when greener, fleshier plants are available.

Do Gophers Ever Eat Meat?

Gophers will not eat meat because they are strict herbivores. Instead, a gopher may eat the already-perished meat that a carnivorous animal left behind. However, there are very rare occasions where a starving gopher may eat a small mammal or insect if they have the chance. 

For instance, if a baby mouse happens to be in their tunnel while the gopher is hungry, the gopher may eat the mouse. Otherwise, gophers will never seek out any form of meat.

Does Bird Seeds or Pet Food Attract Gophers?

Normally, bird seeds do not attract gophers since they rarely consume seeds. Moreover, gophers are unlikely to consume bird seeds since bird seeds are usually placed high above the ground.

As for pet food, gophers normally stay away from eating pet food that smells like meat, such as cat food or dog food. However, starving gophers may eat pet food if they do not have a choice.

Do Gophers Like Processed Food?

Gophers do like certain processed foods, especially if it is made from plant materials. For instance, many people use peanut butter as gopher bait, when trying to catch the animal. They have also been known to eat bread when given the chance.

All of this doesn’t mean that it’s good to feed gophers these things, however. Peanut butter is really difficult for a gopher to swallow, for example, and bread isn’t necessarily healthy for the rodent.

How Do Gophers Get Water And Stay Hydrated?

Normally, gophers do not drink water directly, which is why they do not need to live near bodies of water. Instead, gophers rely on their food for moisture instead of drinking.

For instance, gophers that eat watery vegetables like cucumbers will use these foods to stay hydrated. They also regularly enjoy succulent roots since they provide a lot of moisture.

Do Gophers Like Coffee Grounds?

Gophers do not like coffee grounds because they have a very strong smell. Coffee grounds are usually used around gardens to keep gophers away.

What Do Baby Gophers Eat?

For the first few weeks of their lives, baby gophers will solely rely on their mother’s milk for nutrition. Afterward, they will slowly start to eat more solid food.

Usually, baby gophers will eat whatever food the adults eat, especially if they have learned how to make burrows and have teeth. As such, baby gophers will eat the fleshy roots of plants and various underground plants, like potatoes or carrots.

Do Gophers Drink Milk?

Gophers drink milk as babies since they will nurse from their mothers. Usually, baby gophers will only drink milk for a few weeks since the mother often leaves her babies after three weeks.

Gophers won’t drink cow’s milk or other types of milk that you serve for them in a bowl, however.

Do Gophers Hoard Food?

Gophers hoard food and keep most of the food in their burrows. Usually, gophers will forage by stuffing their cheeks with food. The food will be kept in fur-lined cheek pouches, and they will remove the food from their pouches once they return to their burrow.

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!


  • 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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