Garden safe gopher control?

Tracy_in_TexasMay 6, 2002

Okay folks, we're desperate. For three months now, my husband and I have babied and tended our garden, and it has become our pride and joy.

Enter Malicious Plant-eating Rodent.

This past Saturday this hateful little creature burrowed right up into our garden while we were weeding. My husband was peering into the hole from a few feet away when he saw it peek out. He said it had a little grey longish nose and whiskers. We dug up the ground and saw his little tunnel. We just piled the dirt back over the hole and didn't think anything of it.

We went to town and came back; there was a fresh LARGE mound of dirt in the garden. Over the space of two hours' time, this hateful little varmit had re-burrowed his little tunnel, and had sucked FOUR of our green bean plants down into the ground! There was no trace of any greenery...all that was left were a few little crumbs of dirt where the plants had been!

Then yesterday morning a new mound had appeared; the evil little beast had burrowed under two more rows and sucked down one of our pepper plants! There's no trace of the plant whatsoever!

Is this a gopher!?!

We went to Tractor Supply and bought a mole trap (it's the only trap they had). We also bought some smoke bombs and some poison. But the packages say the bombs and poison are not safe for a garden area. We called my grandfather and he said if you push the dirt away from the mound and shine a flashlight down the hole, he'll come back and try to cover up the hole again. So we uncovered the hole last evening (minus the was sunny) and sure enough he peeked out about 15 minutes later. My husband was waiting with the gun, but unfortunately, he missed. :( I went out this morning before work, and there he was...filling up his blown-away hole!! All I saw was a little flash of grey. (He somehow zipped right past the trap we set last night.)

We're desperate. By the time this fiend is finished with our garden, we'll not have a single plant left!

Is there a "quick-fix" for now, that's safe for our garden? Most methods of eradication are for lawns and flowers. We walked the property last night and saw several mounds, and we're determined to trap or poison for however long it takes. But what can we do that's SAFE and QUICK for our garden, before it's too late?? I saw a post on ammonia, one on liquid Lysol, one on Propane, and another on Pine-Sol, but will any of these hurt the plants in any way?

Any ideas??

And where can I get an effective trap??

Any help is's such a helpless feeling to watch your prized plants disappear into The Void each day!

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First off, you need to find out if you have a gopher or mole problem. By describing 'large mound' it sounds like its a mole (each one is treated differently). Here is a link to a pdf file which I hope helps you :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Controlling Moles

    Bookmark   May 6, 2002 at 7:19PM
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Well, now I'm really depressed. I think we have a mole. The mounds are nice and round and perfectly symetrical. And based on the picture, the tunnels do drop off sharply and level out.

So now I guess I have to go and start all over.

Is there an effective way to kill a mole?

By the way, we've now lost a black-eyed pea plant! Also, we have several stalks of corn now lying over on their side. I suspect he's probably eating their roots and they are falling over due to lack of support.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2002 at 8:14PM
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If you want to do away with the mole, use a scissor type trap. They are about $12 at the local hardware store and work extremely well (USDA trappers use them). Directions are in that link I sent to you :)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2002 at 3:01PM
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oakleaf(z8 TX)

Hey Tracy,
I'm also Z8 Texas, just south of Burleson and north of Alvarado down I35W south. I have recently read, from two different sources, that a good organic way to get rid of moles was to drop a stick of Wrigley "Juicy Fruit" gum unwrapped and unchewed, down the entrances of the little varment's holes. It seems that they just love this flavor gum and it does indeed "gum up" their insides and they quickly pass on to those great mole hills in the sky! A couple of weeks ago, those infamous tunnels suddenly cropped up all over our grounds and a trip to the local discount store was in order. Although the gum treatment seemed too good and easy to be true, we dropped a good many of a large pack of "Juicy Fruit" gum sticks down the entrance holes. Believe it or not, we have not spotted hide nor hair nor tunnel of the little beasties since!
Nothing to lose by giving it a try.
Donna in Texas.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2002 at 3:16AM
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Aegis(z9 CA)

I, too, have seen plants (peppers, freesias, even a papaya) get sucked underground by the nefarious pocket gophers.

I keep hearing about the Juicy Fruit trick.. The experts say it's bunk, but if there is any chance it works, it is the perfect poisons, cheap, etc.

I've been more mainstream in my gopher battles. I caught three in the same hole with the same trap in 2 days a couple of months ago, but mostly the traps get ignored or sprung with no capture. Against almost all of my ecological philosophies, I have also dabbled in the strychnine laced grain which seems to work very well. I put it deep in the holes and hope no birdies ever find it. I've also used those gopher smoke flares...waste of money, although a larger source of carbon monoxide/dioxide might work. I'm trying to protect some areas with a euphorb called "gopher purge". The jury is still out on this one, although I have not lost any trees with this plant planted at the base. I toy with getting a pellet gun and picking 'em off, but I've only seen them out of the hole 2 or 3 times, so I doubt this would be effective.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2002 at 8:30PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

The Juicy Fruit trick is just one item on the list of interesting garden folklore.

Consider this: Moles eat insects. So, why would they be interested in chewing gum?

Beyond that, any "control" that was had is mere coincidence. Moles leave. Moles die. Moles are killed by their predators.

Bottom line: traps work if used persistently.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2002 at 11:51PM
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grae1999(Waller County)

Hello, I had a terrible problem with moles and was told to use castor beans. Sure enough they work. Just drop a bean down in the fresh tunnel and poof, they are gone. Juicy Fruit with the silver wrapper left on works also.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2002 at 9:58AM
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Mame1(Zone 2 Canada)

It sounds more like a "Pocket Gopher" to me. We have them in Alberta and the &*$%$!!! little pests have chewed down 15 foot white spruce trees. Fortunately our neighbor's dog likes them as a snack, so there aren't too many. They also like my delphiniums.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2002 at 3:04PM
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You should be able to get a Victor gopher trap at your hardware store. To do it properly, you'll need two. Interdict the gopher run, use a spade or post hole digger (my preference) and open the run. Rub the traps with carrot, set one facing each direction in the tunnel and then put some bait in the middle between the traps. Each trap has to be pinned to something. I use a very light weight chain. Cover the hole with something stiff and then pile dirt on it to keep light from getting in. Check your traps in 24 hours.

I've used amonia and pine sol within my garden without any problems. The amonia seems to deter the little critters for awhile anyway.

What works best for me is poison. Can't use it in the garden so sometimes I'll track the run to the edge of the garden, open it and put the poison as far back into the run as I can. For that I use a spoon with a six inch handle clamped into vice grips. I figure I get in 12 inches anyway. Then I stuff a couple of rocks in the run and close the hole.

I'd like to try the exploding propane but things are too dry here in Arizona.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2002 at 6:52PM
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My method of preference are box traps. The metal ones. I want to see the body to know for sure! And I want it to die fast so it wont suffer. Always wear gloves, find a good run, put the trap orafice flush against the run, cover all except the end hole of the trap with crumbly soil to bring the gopher into the trap towards the light at the end of the tunnel, let alone and wait. It can take an hour or several days. Then dispose of the body. If you catch a gopher and want to reset the same trap, you must clean the trap to remove any scent of the dead gopher. Otherwise they will just begin to bury it with soil. You can either clean the trap with a brush and dishwashing soap and rinse well, or just soak the trap overnight in a dilute detergent solution, air-dry and reset. I also will set a trap in a run where I have just trapped a gopher. About 50% of the time I get a second within a week. Once I got 3 in the same glory hole.

I had a friend who trapped gophers on his property and he liked to take advantage of the territoriality of the beasts. When he caught one, he would take it an bury it in the run of another gopher. I dont remember what the effect of this was. I like to fling mine down the hill for the birds of prey and other varmits to eat.

If your garden varmit is producing mounds or piles of obvious loose soil, and eating plants/roots, its most likely a gopher. If its burrowing just beneath the surface, its eating worms and grubs, its a mole and wont be bothering your plants.

Good hunting.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2003 at 1:35AM
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I use the hose and shovel method. Take your water hose, stick it into the dirt mound, pushing it down and around until you hit the tunnel, push it down as far as it will go. You know you've hit one of their tunnels when the water doesn't just come back to the surface.
Then sit there with your shovel and wait. You might have to try a few holes until you see him poke his nose out of another hole or poke his head above ground. Then WHACK!!!

Pretty simple, no poison, satifaction of seeing him dead. Very stress relieving, especially when they've been destroying your yard.

Whack a Mole is a popular game for a reason!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2003 at 7:58PM
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mtenn333(9 SW CA)

I live in Southern CA and I have a small patio with a 10'x 15' lawn and some herbs and plants. I believe with all the research I have done online, that I have a mole problem. The tunnels are just beneath the surface and are no larger than 2 inches in diameter. The mounds they make are not loose dirt. It's more like an erruption with cracks in the surface. For weeks I have been studying them and stomping down there tunnels with my feet. I set two gopher traps with carrots and gloves and they dug right underneath them. Today I saw movement with my own eyes for the first time. The little pest was near the herbs and the plant was moving, however the plants never just disappear. Anyway, I quietly moved in closer hoping for a kill with my foot and I stomped down several times where there was movement. Mostly the damage is just from the mounds made in my lawn. How would I be sure these are moles in order to proceed with the proper method of getting rid of these little guys?

Please help!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2003 at 2:20PM
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flowermanoat(Z9, Central.CA)

If the beast is eating plants, its got to be a pocket gopher since moles are insect eaters. For the past 8 years I have never set a trap even though there are always a few mounds around. A mojor part of my income comes from my 1 acre garden and I feel my time is better spent planting more than messing with traps. Feral cats are always about--the garden supports 2 or 3--and I leave the gophers to them. I do make sure the cats have water available but I never feed them. Cats work great for keeping sparrows that eat sprouting seeds at bay too. I grow over a hundered different kinds of flowers and rely on biodiversity almost exclusively for pest management.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2003 at 2:09AM
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I had a bad case of gophers in my 2 acre lawn here in MD. Then the black snakes moved in. Gophers and moles were invited to dinner and I think the snakes picked up the tab. Bottom line - no traps - no poison - no more gophers

    Bookmark   July 11, 2003 at 7:51PM
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wholehearted(NWOhio z6-9)

We USED TO HAVE THEM AND THEY ARE THE WORST LITTLE &^%%$ in existance!Until I planted CASTOR BEANS!!! Mole or whatever are gone.I have not lost anything at all this year.Just put the seeds in the ground in various parts of my yard close to my garden,and the seed may not grow but that's because the rodent ate the poisinous seed!And the ones that did grow are gorgous and supply me with seeds for this coming year.My husband was elated for yrs we were tripping over mounds of upturned soil,NO MORE NO POISONS NO TRAPS NO JUICY FRUIT OR GUNS,JUST CASTOR BEAN SEEDS THEY WORK I SWEAR BY THEM!!!!!!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2003 at 9:25AM
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danlovick(z9 Monterey, CA)

Where can I get castor beans?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2004 at 2:35PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You can purchase commercial caster oil repellents, if you feel more comfortable using something that actually has directions on the label. However, there are several 'recipes' out there. This is for moles, by the way, but it is said to repel gophers, as well. The one that I've personally seen in use is as follows:

Mix 6 ounces caster oil, 2 tablespoons dish detergent to 1 gallon of water. A blender helps emulsify it. This icky stuff is your concentrate.

To apply, use 1 ounce of that concoction per gallon of water to apply over about 300 square feet of soil/lawn/etc.

I'd presume that you could also put it directly into a gopher hole. If you decide to experiment with this, please let us know the results. I know, first hand, that it works very well for moles, but have only read/heard about the gophers.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 1:15PM
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All parts of the castor bean plant are poisonous, although the ricin is most concentrated in the bean. During manufacture of castor oil that ricin is removed so the oil is non toxic, although it does not taste that way.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 8:51AM
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Thanks for all the info regarding how to rid your garden of gophers and moles. We've done the flooding/whack with a shovel - ugly, but effective. Unfortunately our neighbor managed to send one of his "best friends" to our yard again. We will now try the castor oil treatment or castor bean AND the JuicyFruit gum. Will report back on our progress.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 3:38PM
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My fathers neighbor always plants a huge garden. Several years ago gophers were destroying his seedling plants. Dad told him to go get some castor bean seeds from the local seed farm and plant them in the areas where the other plants went missing. The neighbor later complained to my my dad that although he planted several dozen only three of the castor bean plants came up. When asked if he had seen any further gopher damage the neighbor replied no, not anything at all. Problem solved.
every year the neighbor plants just a few castor been plants now and every year every seed comes up but he has never had a gopher problem again either. He must have wiped them all out that one year

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 8:32PM
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