The good and bad of pocket gophers
They construct and live in underground tunnels and leave mounds of soil in evidence of their excavation efforts. While sometimes considered a pest, pocket gophers can be valuable because they contribute to the formation and conditioning of the 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.
"Gophers populations can be reduced over a considerable area with persistent control efforts," said Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist. "Control is best conducted when gophers are most active near the surface, usually in the spring or fall."
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 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 aware of the animal's long-term benefits.
"Management is preferred because it recognizes the value of gophers and the impossibility of eradication," said Elmore. "Trying to eradicate any species upsets the integrity of the ecosystems in a manner we cannot possible predict from our current knowledge of the structure and function of those ecosystems."