gopher mounds

To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit – ever.  —Carl Spackler, Caddyshack

If your yard has ever been pockmarked by gophers or moles, Carl’s desperate use of plastic explosives may start looking like a good idea. (It’s not.) Lately our neighbors have been debating whether moles are as bad as gophers. So far no one has come out in favor of gophers. One person described the gopher’s activity this way:

It was like out of a cartoon. This plant starts getting shorter and shorter before my eyes until it’s pulled entirely into a gopher hole. I was amused until I realized that’s how a third of my flowers had disappeared. I’d been blaming the neighbor’s dog.

Gophers are clearly a very destructive garden pest. (FYI, our San Diego office offers gopher control). But what about moles? and how do you tell whether gophers or moles are making a home in your garden?

There’s a big difference in what gophers and moles eat and that makes all the difference in the kind of damage they do to a garden. Gophers are  vegetarians–the plant sucking submarines of the garden. Moles are insectivores–they eat worms, grubs, and other insects. They do not eat plants.

Gophers damage a garden by actually eating plants, roots, and tree bark. Plus their tunnels and mounds are unsightly. Moles damage a garden by digging around the roots of a plants, thereby destabilizing the plant and creating air pockets that dry out the roots. Conversely, moles help the garden by eating grubs and other insects that feast on plants. Because of their less destructive habits and potential benefit, many people just put up with moles in the garden.

How can you tell if your garden has moles or gophers? Look at the mounds. Gophers leave large crescent shaped mounds of dirt often with obvious plugged holes in the middle–and they make LOTS of mounds. Moles also make mounds, but they are smaller and almost uniformly round. They rarely leave holes.

Getting rid of either gophers or moles is challenging and requires expertise. DO NOT use the DIY methods you find on YouTube! Attaching a hose to your car’s exhaust and trying to suffocate the gophers with carbon dioxide is ridiculous and dangerous. Using fire crackers, M-80’s or lager explosives is also likely to result in injury to yourself and not to quick moving moles and gophers. Hunting moles and gophers with a shotgun is dangerous and also illegal in urban areas. Shoving mousetraps down the holes is a waste of time and plain silly. Feel free to try mole and gopher traps made specifically for the purpose. Also gopher gas bombs may be helpful in annoying the gophers enough to move temporarily to your neighbor’s yard. Better yet, hire a pest control company experienced in gopher and mole control.