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Gophers are small burrowing mammals that are found in North and Central America. They are known for their extensive tunnel systems and the damage they can cause to lawns and gardens. Understanding what gophers eat is important for managing their population and preventing infestations. In this article, we will explore the food habits and preferences of gophers, their impact on plants, and effective ways to prevent and manage gopher infestations.

Understanding Gophers

What Is a Gopher and How Is It Different from a Pocket Gopher?

Gophers, also known as true gophers, are rodents that belong to the family Geomyidae. They are distinct from pocket gophers, which are members of the family Geomyidae. While both species are burrowing rodents, pocket gophers have external cheek pouches, while gophers do not.

Gopher Food Habits and Preferences

Researching Gopher Food Habits

Studying gopher food habits is essential for understanding their diet and finding effective ways to control their population. Research has shown that gophers are herbivores, meaning they primarily feed on plants. However, they may occasionally consume small insects or other animal matter.

A Complete List of Gopher’s Favorite Foods

Gophers have a wide range of favorite foods, including:

  • Bouteloua gracilis:

    Gophers have a particular fondness for this grass species, commonly known as mosquito grass.

  • Bluegrass:

    Gophers also feed on various species of bluegrass.

  • Horsetail Plant:

    This plant, commonly found near water sources, is a favorite food source for gophers.

  • Cacti:

    Surprisingly, gophers have been observed feeding on certain types of cacti.

  • Forbs:

    Gophers consume a variety of forbs, which are herbaceous flowering plants.

  • Shrubs:

    Gophers have a taste for shrubs, feeding on their roots and foliage.

  • Tubers and Bulbs:

    Gophers are known to consume tubers and bulbs of various plants.

  • Fungi:

    In addition to plants, gophers also consume fungi found underground.

These are just some examples of the foods that gophers prefer, and their diet may vary depending on availability and geographical location.

Gopher Predators and Hunting Habits

Who Are Gopher’s Natural Predators?

Gophers have several natural predators that help control their population. Some of the most common predators include snakes, owls, hawks, foxes, coyotes, and domestic pets such as cats and dogs.

Do Gophers Hunt for Prey?

While gophers primarily feed on plants, they are not known to actively hunt for prey. Their diet consists mainly of vegetation, roots, bulbs, and tubers.

Gophers and their Impact

Gophers as Pests: Understanding the Damage They Cause

Gophers can cause significant damage to lawns, gardens, and agricultural crops. Their tunneling activities can create unsightly mounds and damage plant roots, leading to wilting and death of vegetation.

Identifying Signs of Gopher Infestation

There are several signs that can indicate a gopher infestation, including:

  • Mounds of soil: Gophers create distinctive mounds of soil as they dig their tunnels.
  • Tunnel systems: Gophers create extensive underground tunnel systems that can be identified by their entrance and exit holes.
  • Damaged plants: Wilting or dead plants with damaged roots are a clear indication of gopher activity.

Health Risks Associated with Gophers

While gophers are not known to carry diseases that directly affect humans, their burrows can create tripping hazards and damage underground utility lines. It is important to address gopher infestations to avoid potential hazards.

Preventing and Managing Gopher Infestations

5 Effective Natural Ways to Deal with Gophers

If you’re dealing with a gopher infestation, there are several natural methods you can try to control their population:

  1. Plant natural repellents: Certain plants, such as castor bean and marigold, can repel gophers and discourage them from entering your property.
  2. Install barriers: Create physical barriers using wire mesh or hardware cloth to prevent gophers from accessing your garden or lawn.
  3. Use traps: Consider using gopher traps, such as box traps or cinch traps, to catch and remove gophers from your property.
  4. Introduce predators: Encourage natural predators of gophers, such as owls or snakes, to inhabit your property.
  5. Monitor and remove mounds: Regularly inspect your property for gopher mounds and remove them promptly to discourage further tunneling.

Tips for Gopher-proofing Your Property

Preventing gopher infestations in the first place is key to protecting your plants and property. Here are some tips to gopher-proof your property:

  • Remove potential food sources: Clear vegetation and plant species that are attractive to gophers.
  • Modify watering practices: Avoid overwatering your lawn or garden, as gophers are attracted to moist soil.
  • Install fencing: Use buried wire mesh or hardware cloth to create a barrier that extends below the ground’s surface.
  • Maintain a manicured lawn: Regularly mow your lawn and keep it well-maintained to discourage gophers from burrowing.


Gophers are herbivorous rodents that primarily feed on a variety of plant species. Understanding their food habits and preferences is essential for effectively managing gopher infestations. By implementing preventive measures and taking appropriate action, you can minimize the impact of gophers on your property and preserve your plants and lawn.


What do gophers eat in the wild?

In the wild, gophers primarily consume grass, roots, tubers, bulbs, forbs, shrubs, cacti, and fungi.

Are gophers dangerous to humans?

While gophers are not directly dangerous to humans, their tunneling activities can cause tripping hazards, and their burrows can damage underground utility lines.

Can gophers eat through wire mesh or hardware cloth?

Gophers are capable of chewing through wire mesh or hardware cloth, so it is important to ensure that the barriers you install are durable and properly maintained.

Do natural gopher repellents work?

Natural gopher repellents can be effective in deterring gophers from entering your property. However, their success may vary, and it is important to employ other preventive measures in conjunction with repellents.

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