A very common nuisance complaint we receive from all over the region is that “a mole or some kind of small rodent” is “destroying my flower bed,” “ruining my sod” and/or “damaging my shrubs and small trees.” The likely culprits are pocket gophers or voles. Moles are not found in the Pikes Peak Region.
Pocket gophers are smallish, but robust and powerful digging rodents that live and feed underground the vast majority of the time. Four species are found in the region, with the northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides) being the most common and widespread. Grayish brown to tan in color, gophers are noted
for their big “buck teeth,” large cheek pockets and powerful forelegs and claws. Only one litter is produced each year, usually in June. Note: In parts of the U.S. several species of smaller ground squirrels are incorrectly referred to as “gophers.”
True gophers dig extensive burrow systems. Classic evidence is a series of dirt piles or mounds from tea cup to wheelbarrow size. Most often they are about a quart to a gallon in volume, somewhat fan-shaped, without an open hole. Almost always, gophers plug the holes with dirt. Gophers are active year-round. After snow melt in the spring, tube-like soil ridges (casts or “eskers”) indicate where gophers have filled snow tunnels with excess soil. Unlike moles, which are insectivores, pocket gophers are plant eaters or herbivores. Typically they clip small plants (e.g., grasses, annuals, perennials) and pull them into the burrow system for food. They also feed heavily on roots of shrubs and trees, especially in winter. In addition to those unsightly dirt piles, serious damage can occur to sod/turf, flower beds, vegetable gardens, retaining walls, septic leach fields, pastures/hay fields and roots of shrubs/small trees.
Gopher damage can be safely, effectively minimized through the proper use of a poison bait (i.e., pesticide) program or lethal traps. Our technicians are well-trained and licensed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) to properly use the best commercial baits available. Our method involves: 1) manually probing to locate gopher feeding tunnels, 2) carefully opening the tunnel system, 3) inserting two different baits into the tunnel, 4) carefully plugging the hole to seal the bait in the system and 5) dispersing or leveling the dirt mound. On average, only one in 3-5 mounds needs to be treated. If activity persists after one week (i.e., new piles appear), we will do additional clean-up treatments as necessary. With this system we are generally 95 – 100% effective in eliminating the gophers present at that time. However, if gophers are on adjacent properties, immigration may occur within weeks or months, requiring additional treatments. Often neighbors will go in together to get a longer reprieve.
An alternative method is the use of lethal traps. A variety of makes and models are available. Our method is similar to the bait application but the trap(s) is inserted in place of the bait until a catch is made. Traps are useful in vegetable gardens, when dogs are present, when baits are ineffective or when clients are averse to using pesticides. In these situations traps can be very effective when properly set. Of course, traps need to be checked, tended and eventually removed.
Other methods, including smoke bombs, fumigants, chemical repellents and sonic devices are generally ineffective. We do not recommend them. In fact, we jokingly refer to sonic repeller devices as “gopher home entertainment centers.”
If you need help with a pocket gopher problem, call us at 719-636-1014 for an assessment and prices. We’d be happy to help.