Gophers are nuisance rodents that ruin lawns and gardens, driving homeowners crazy when they live on their property. Although there are many species of gopher living in our area, Botta’s Pocket Gophers are the most common type of gopher in California. They are brown in color and 6-10 inches in length. Their unique, large pocket-like cheeks allow gophers to carry food that they find above ground, back into their burrows. They spend most of their lives underground in a series of elaborate, connected tunnels that can span several hundred yards. Tunnels are marked by a series of mounds that appear to be created, then plugged up with looser soil. This strategy allows gophers to seal their environment against inclement weather and prevent threats from entering. Most gophers are solitary, with the exception of mating season.

Pictured Above: Botta’s Pocket Gopher Photo Credit: Friends of Edgewood Park and Nature Preserve

Their tunneling activity is often considered beneficial to the environment. Because they move large amounts of soil underground, gophers help mix beneficial elements into the otherwise undisturbed land, improving soil fertility. Unfortunately, botta’s pocket gophers can quickly become a massive pest issue for homeowners that suffer from destructive tunneling and eating habits on their property.

What’s the difference between gophers and ground squirrels?

Both botta’s pocket gophers and ground squirrels are big concerns for homeowners in California. If you’re seeing mounds in your yard, seemingly out of nowhere, you’re probably wondering if gophers are to blame. Or is it ground squirrels? The best way to differentiate the two is by examining their mounds. Botta’s pocket gophers plug their holes with loose soil whereas ground squirrels leave their mounds open, with leftover dirt from initial excavation surrounding the exterior of the hole.

Pictured Above: Botta’s pocket gopher Photo Credit: University of California, School of Biological Sciences

Unlike gophers that primarily live underground, you might spot a ground squirrel above ground during the day. Ground squirrels look like smaller prairie dogs or chipmunks, quickly scurrying around in the early morning and late afternoons primarily.

What attracts gophers to my yard?

Soil is the primary factor when considering gopher burrowing. They need moisture to be present, making arid soil the least idea environment. If soil is too dry, the likelihood of a cave-in is higher than with wetter conditions. Their presence increases in the fall and spring, but they are present all year-round because they do not hibernate.

Vegetation could be drawing gophers to your yard. Botta’s pocket gophers eat large amounts of plant matter that’s around your property and more often around their burrows. It’s not only your property that can fall victim to gopher tunneling. They are also pests for golf courses and farms where the soil is well taken care of.

Are gophers dangerous?

It goes without being said that gophers can quickly destroy your lawn and garden. Botta’s pocket gophers create tunnels by navigating through soil, using a single exit and entry point every time they come up for food. Several mounds can be made in a single day by a gophers. By using their sharp teeth and long claws, a single gopher can move over a ton of soil in a single year. This means 1-3 tons can be moved in a gopher’s lifetime of up to 3 years.

Because gophers spend the large majority of their lives underground, it isn’t likely that you’ll catch a glimpse of them. The best way to determine if you have gophers tunneling on your property is to identify the mounds that are scattered throughout your yard. Gopher mounds are created as exit points above the tunnels. Unlike other rodents, gophers create a fan pattern when they surface. The entrance hole is then loosely plugged with soil to avoid pests from getting into their tunnels and for easy access should they want to use the mound again.

If left unaddressed, gophers can break utility pipes and electrical conduits laying underground, causing significant damage to your property and potentially hazardous conditions. When they eat roots, gophers can destroy vegetation. Gophers can bite if provoked, but they are not prone to aggressive behaviors such as chasing. For this reason, we do not encourage handling gophers on your own.

How can I prevent gophers from destroying my yard?

Never try to handle gophers or try to get rid of them on your own. There is a possibility that gophers will bite if they are directly handled, so physically removing them or trap and release methods are always come with a great risk. Aside from human intervention, pocket gophers have several natural predators that are native to the Central Valley and Bay area. Snakes, skunks, hawks, owls, and foxes are among many natural predators. Unfortunately, dogs can also be drawn to gophers if they find them in your yard or their burrows. If you find gophers or their burrows on your property, always call AAI Pest Control for professional gopher removal.

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