Digging in against pocket gopher problems
Like many of nature's creatures, pocket gophers can provide both benefits and drawbacks to those who share "living space" with them.
Pocket gophers can be valuable to local ecosystems in that they contribute to the formation and conditioning of soil and provide food for larger predators. However, controlling pocket gophers may be necessary when they eat garden crops, clover, roots of fruit trees, shrubs, alfalfa, or their digging activities interfere with harvesting hay or grain.
Gopher populations can be reduced over a considerable area with persistent control efforts, said Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist, explaining that prior planning is a key to control efforts.
"Control is best conducted when gophers are most active near the surface, usually in the spring or fall," he said, making late summer a good time for landowners to consider what actions they can and should take.
Gopher activity is evident through the mounds of soil left on the surface. The two most effective gopher management techniques are poisoning and trapping. For larger areas, with more gophers doing more damage, Elmore suggests contacting wildlife services who will know what is currently legal and may even conduct the control if it is impacting agricultural production.
Trapping is the most practical method on smaller areas such as lawns or where few gophers are involved. Two traps of appropriate size should be placed in the main runway, one set in each direction. There should be little disturbance to the surrounding area as possible.
Once the traps are set in the tunnel, cover the opening in the burrow with a clod or handful of grass to cut off most of the light. Traps should be fastened to a stake with a light wire as gophers instinctively cover open burrows to keep out enemies.
"After traps are set, tramp down the tops of all the mounds so that mounds made by the gophers you miss will be evident on your next visit," said Elmore. "For efficient use of traps and for best results, visit trap sets in the morning and evening.
In large numbers, pocket gophers can have a major negative economical effect. However, before a decision is made on whether or not controlling gophers is necessary, landowners should be influenced by the animal's long-term benefits. Populations should be managed without threatening the species.