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The Basics of Gophers

Identification and Biology

Gophers are small mammals that belong to the family Geomyidae. They are commonly found in the San Francisco Bay Area Yard and are known for their burrowing habits. Pocket gophers are the most common species of gophers found in this area.

What are Pocket Gophers?

Pocket gophers are rodents that have fur-lined cheek pouches, or pockets, on the sides of their faces. These pouches allow them to carry food and nesting material. They have stout bodies, short legs, and strong claws that are adapted for digging tunnels.

Gopher Signs and Appearance

Gophers can be identified by the characteristic mounds they create in yards and gardens. These mounds are typically crescent-shaped and are made up of excavated soil from the gopher’s tunnels. Gophers themselves are usually brown or gray in color and can grow up to a foot in length.

Biology and Behavior of Gophers

Gophers are solitary animals and are primarily active during the day. They create extensive tunnel systems underground, which serve as their homes and provide protection from predators. Gophers feed on a variety of plant material, including roots, bulbs, and stems.

Understanding Gopher Mounds

Identifying Gopher Mounds

Gopher mounds are distinctive features found in yards and gardens. They are formed as a result of gophers pushing soil to the surface while they dig their tunnels. The mounds are usually circular or crescent-shaped and can range in size from a few inches to several feet in diameter.

Gopher Mounds vs. Mole Mounds

It is important to differentiate gopher mounds from mole mounds, as they are often confused. Gopher mounds are more circular or crescent-shaped, while mole mounds are more conical. Gopher mounds also have a plugged opening, which is absent in mole mounds.

Costs and Benefits of Pocket Gopher Activity

While gopher activity can be problematic for homeowners, it is important to understand the potential costs and benefits associated with their presence.

Negative Impact of Pocket Gophers

Gophers can cause damage to lawns, gardens, and crops by feeding on plant roots and disrupting the soil. Their tunneling activities can also lead to erosion and create tripping hazards. Additionally, gopher mounds can be unsightly and affect the aesthetics of outdoor spaces.

Benefits of Pocket Gophers

Despite the negative impact, gophers also provide some benefits to the ecosystem. Their burrowing activities can help aerate the soil, improve drainage, and create habitats for other animals. They also serve as a food source for predators such as owls and snakes.

Damage Control: Removing Gophers

Methods for Gopher Removal

There are several methods available for removing gophers from yards and gardens.

Trapping Gophers

Trapping is a commonly used method for gopher removal. Live traps or lethal traps can be set near active tunnels to catch the gophers.

Baiting with Toxic Baits

Using toxic baits is another option for gopher control. These baits are often grain-based and contain poisons that are lethal to gophers when ingested.


Fumigation involves introducing gases into the gopher tunnels to eliminate the pests. This method requires special equipment and should be handled by professionals.

Modifying Gopher Habitat

Modifying the gopher’s habitat can also help control their presence. This can include removing food sources, installing barriers, or making the area less attractive for burrowing.

Prevention and Repair

Preventing Gopher Infestations

Preventing gopher infestations requires proactive measures to make the environment less favorable for these pests.

Repairing Gopher Mounds

If gopher mounds are present in your lawn or garden, it is important to repair them to restore the aesthetics and safety of the area.

Repairing Gopher Mounds on Your Lawn

To repair gopher mounds on your lawn, start by removing the excess soil from the mound. Fill the depression with clean soil and gently pack it down. Finally, reseed the area with grass seed and water thoroughly.


Gophers make mounds as a result of their underground burrowing activities. While their presence can have negative impacts on lawns and gardens, gophers also provide ecosystem benefits. Various methods are available for removing and controlling gophers, and preventive measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood of infestations. If you have gopher mounds in your yard, it is important to take steps to repair and restore the affected areas.


Q: How do gophers create mounds?

A: Gophers create mounds by pushing soil to the surface while digging their underground tunnels.

Q: Are gopher mounds harmful?

A: Gopher mounds can be harmful as they can cause damage to lawns, gardens, and crops. They can also create tripping hazards and affect the aesthetics of outdoor spaces.

Q: Can gopher mounds be removed?

A: Yes, gopher mounds can be removed. There are various methods available for gopher removal and control.

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