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Gophers are small, burrowing rodents that can cause significant damage to lawns, gardens, and agricultural fields. They are particularly common in California, where their destructive behavior has become a concern for property owners. However, when it comes to controlling gopher populations, it is important to understand the laws and regulations in place to ensure that you are acting within the legal boundaries.

What are Gophers?

Gophers are rodents that belong to the Geomyidae family. They are known for their distinctive burrowing behavior and their ability to create intricate tunnel systems underground. Gophers can be identified by their small size, stout bodies, short legs, and large cheek pouches. They primarily feed on plant roots, making them particularly destructive to vegetation.

Their Destructive Behavior

Gophers can cause extensive damage to lawns, gardens, and crops. They create tunnels underground and push up mounds of soil, causing unsightly and uneven ground surfaces. This can lead to tripping hazards and damage to lawnmowers and other equipment. Additionally, their feeding habits can result in the destruction of plant roots, ultimately killing vegetation.

Laws and Regulations in California

California has specific laws and regulations in place regarding gopher control. It is important to familiarize yourself with these regulations to ensure that you are acting within the legal boundaries. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regulates the trapping and killing of gophers, as well as other wildlife species.

Under California law, it is generally legal to kill gophers on your property if they are causing damage or posing a threat to structures or agricultural land. However, there are restrictions on the methods that can be used for gopher control. It is important to use methods that are approved by the CDFW and to follow the guidelines and restrictions outlined by the department.

Methods of Gopher Control

There are several methods available for controlling gopher populations. These methods range from prevention and habitat modification to trapping and removal, use of poisonous bait, fumigation, and biological control.

1. Prevention and Habitat Modification

One of the most effective ways to control gophers is by preventing their entry into your property and modifying their habitat. This can be done by installing barriers such as wire mesh or underground fences to prevent gophers from burrowing into the area. Additionally, removing sources of food and shelter can help discourage gophers from inhabiting your property.

2. Trapping and Removal

Trapping and removal is another common method used to control gopher populations. Traps specifically designed for gophers can be placed in active tunnel systems to capture and remove the rodents. This method is effective, but it requires patience and regular monitoring of the traps.

3. Use of Poisonous Bait

The use of poisonous bait is an option for gopher control, but it should be used with caution. Only certain types of bait are approved for use in California, and it is important to follow the guidelines and restrictions outlined by the CDFW. Additionally, caution should be exercised to prevent non-target animals from accessing the bait.

4. Fumigation

Fumigation involves the use of toxic gases to eliminate gophers. This method is primarily used for larger-scale agricultural operations and should be carried out by trained professionals. It is important to follow all safety protocols and guidelines when using fumigation methods.

5. Biological Control

Biological control involves the use of natural predators or parasites to control gopher populations. This method is often used in conjunction with other control methods and may require the assistance of professionals who specialize in biological control techniques.

Killing Gophers Legally

If you are considering killing gophers on your property, it is important to do so in a legal and humane manner. Here are some guidelines to follow:

1. Legal Means of Detering Gophers

There are legal means of deterring gophers from your property, such as using barriers, modifying their habitat, or planting vegetation that gophers find unappealing.

2. Trapping Live Gophers

If you choose to trap gophers, it is important to use traps that are specifically designed for gopher capture. Follow the guidelines provided by the CDFW and check the traps regularly to ensure captured gophers are handled in a humane manner.

3. Killing Gophers with Snap Traps

Snap traps can be used to kill gophers, but it is important to follow all guidelines and restrictions set by the CDFW. Only use traps that are approved for gopher control and dispose of the trapped gophers in a legal and humane manner.

4. Endangered Gopher Species

It is important to note that there are certain species of gophers that are protected under state or federal laws. It is illegal to harm or kill these endangered species. Before engaging in any gopher control activities, ensure that you are not targeting a protected species.

5. Restrictions on Killing Non-commensal Animals

While it may be legal to kill gophers causing damage on your property, it is important to be aware of the restrictions on killing non-commensal animals. Non-commensal animals are those that are not causing damage or posing a threat to structures or agricultural land. Killing non-commensal animals may require specific permits or may be prohibited altogether.

Gopher Control in California

In California, gopher control is regulated by the CDFW. It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations and guidelines set forth by the department. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in legal consequences.

1. Gopher Control Regulations

The CDFW has regulations in place to ensure the humane and legal control of gophers. These regulations outline the approved methods of control and provide guidelines on how to handle captured or killed gophers.

2. Approved Methods for Gopher Control

California approves several methods for gopher control, such as trapping, baiting, and fumigation. It is essential to use only approved methods and follow all guidelines and restrictions to ensure legal and effective gopher control.

3. Professional Gopher Control Services

For those who are unsure or uncomfortable with handling gopher control themselves, professional gopher control services are available in California. These professionals are knowledgeable about the state regulations and can provide effective and legal gopher control solutions for your property.

4. DIY Gopher Control Techniques

Do-it-yourself gopher control techniques are also an option for property owners in California. However, it is important to educate yourself about the regulations and guidelines set by the CDFW to ensure that you are in compliance with the law.

FAQs about Gopher Control

1. Can Gophers Cause Damage to Underground Structures?

Yes, gophers can cause damage to underground structures. Their burrowing behavior can weaken the ground and potentially compromise the integrity of basements, foundations, and underground pipes. It is important to address gopher infestations promptly to prevent further damage.

2. Lifespan of Gophers

Gophers typically have a lifespan of 1 to 3 years. However, their reproduction rate is high, with females producing several litters in a year. This can lead to rapid population growth if left unchecked.

3. Hiring Professional Gopher Control Services

Hiring professional gopher control services can be a beneficial option for those who are not familiar with the regulations or do not have the time or resources to handle gopher control themselves. Professional services can provide effective and legal solutions for gopher infestations.


Controlling gopher populations in California requires adherence to the laws and regulations set by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is important to understand the approved methods of gopher control, as well as the restrictions and guidelines for handling captured or killed gophers. Whether you choose to tackle gopher control yourself or hire professional services, it is crucial to prioritize legal and humane methods to protect both your property and the local ecosystem.

Call to Action

If you are dealing with a gopher problem on your property, it is important to take action to prevent further damage. Educate yourself about the regulations and approved methods for gopher control in California. Consider hiring a professional gopher control service to ensure effective and legal solutions. Remember, by addressing the gopher issue promptly, you can protect your property and help maintain a balanced ecosystem.

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