Getting Rid of Gophers in the Pacific Northwest

We’ve all experienced that sinking moment of despair when we step outside to admire our beautifully landscaped yard and healthy, abundant lawn…only to see it transformed into hills and valleys plowed by our underground neighbors, gophers and moles. It can happen in a blink of an eye. One moment, your lawn is at it’s pristine finest…the next day its been bulldozed from below.

First things first—what NOT to do to rid yourself of these little varmints:

  • Get them to chew gum. A popular urban myth suggests adding chewing gum or soft candy to the gopher hole. Supposedly, when the gopher consumes the human treat, his intestines may gum up or cramp. Then, he’ll either die or vacate the premises. Does it work? Experts say no, and we don’t recommend it.
  • Explosives. Those who like to blow things up might try pouring gasoline down a gopher hole, then, igniting it. This can be dangerous, to say the least. Besides causing injury to you or your loved ones, lighting up a gopher trail with gasoline can destroy your lawn. The grass will usually die above the burn zone, highlighting the gopher’s elaborate system of trails. As they used to say on Mythbusters, “Please, do NOT try this at home.”
  • Stick a hose down the tunnel and drown the little buggers. Not recommended. A gopher’s burrow is an elaborate system. There are food caches, nurseries, and other burrows, usually positioned higher than the tunnels. When the water runs down the tunnel, the gopher may pack up the family, heading for a higher burrow to wait out the storm. Or, if you get lucky, they might flee. This leaves you with the option of bashing them over the head with a shovel and then finding a good disposal method. Are you really prepared for gopher bashing?

So what can you do that works?

  • Some swear by a device called a Burrow Blaster or Gopher Blaster. These explosive devices are among the most popular methods for the complete removal of gophers. Using a mixture of oxygen and propane, this technique causes pulmonary hemorrhage in gophers and kills them. While some call this method inhumane, the shock wavecreated by the explosion is swift and deadly. The rodent won’t know what hit it. Your yard might not know what it it, as well. Any dry grasses or plants in the yard could catch on fire. And, as with the gasoline method, extreme care must be taken when using a Gopher Blaster. If your yard is on the small size, you’ll probably want to employ other methods.

    Gopher Blasters can be expensive, however. Starting at about $1300, the kill rate can be as low as 30-40%, and as high as 95-98%.

  • Gas them out. Some have tried the carbon monoxide method. Simply connect a pipe from your engine exhaust and position it in a gopher hole. Tamp the pipe down with soil. Make sure there are no other holes visible. Known as the Pressurized Exhaust Rodent Control (PERC), it supposedly takes three minutes of exhaust fumes to fumigate the rodents.
  • Poison is an extremely effective and popular method for controlling gophers. Use extreme caution, however, if you have kids or pets. Zinc phosphide and strychnine are two popular poisons used to eliminate gophers. Simply make a hole in a tunnel, using a broom stick or rod. Pour your poison bait into the hole. Gophers will discover this new burrow and eat the baits. Or, you can mix the poison with 4 quarts of vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, beets or parsnips. Add 1/8 oz. strychnine, and 1/80 oz. saccharine to the washed, dried and chopped into 1 in pieces vegetables. Pour the bait into the tunnels. Good-bye, gophers.
  • Gophers despise strong scents. Place fish scraps or dryer sheets down the tunnels and watch your gophers seek new yards, leaving yours alone.
  • Place gopher traps (usually found at farm supply stores) in the tunnels or passageways of an active gopher mound. Dig a hole and put the trap diagonally into the tunnel. Completely cover the trap with black plastic sheet or burlap so that no light reaches into the hole. As soon as they’re trapped, transport them to a distant location far away from your home or property.

If you want to eliminate the problem of gophers altogether, you might consider hardscaping your yard. At Levys Lawns and Landscaping, we excel at hardscape design. Give us a call at (360) 265-5231.

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