How to Keep Gophers Out of Your Garden in Modesto, CA

Little furry animals like gophers are cute and loveable until you find out how destructive they can be. Their appeal quickly fades when you see they have eaten half of your garden and dug up your yard. Of all the pesky rodents in southern California, the gopher is one of the biggest troublemakers.

What kind of gophers live in Modesto?

The most common species of gophers in southern California is commonly referred to as the valley pocket gopher. You will find them throughout the state, most notably in farms, urban gardens, and suburban yards.

The southern half of the state is an excellent habitat for them as it is home to the plentiful crops of the Central Valley. Pocket gophers love to live in the fields and often find their way into residential properties in nearby cities, like Modesto and Stockton.

How can I tell the difference between gophers, moles, and voles?

Gophers are commonly mistaken for moles or voles, but they have distinct features and habits that set them apart.


Pocket gopher mounds are shaped like crescents because they exit the soil at an angle. However, other potentially lawn-destroying pests include moles and voles. Unlike gophers, which create larger mounds, moles tend to leave a series of interconnected tunnels, known as a burrow system.

  • Medium in size (5-14 inches long)
  • Often mistaken for groundhogs
  • Leave crescent-shaped mounds


Moles exit the ground from straight up, leaving a raised, cone-shaped hole instead of the fan-shaped mound characteristic of gophers. They can also create raised ridges in the soil, as can voles.

  • Pointed nose
  • Large, shovel-shaped front paws
  • Leave cone-shaped mounds


Voles can’t dig as deeply as moles and gophers, so their tunnels are usually shallow, resembling runways with tiny, round holes serving as their exits. They also move into preexisting gopher and mole tunnels, so an absence of vole runways does not necessarily mean your lawn is pest-free.

  • Resemble mice
  • Short, skinny tails
  • Leave runways and small holes

Are gophers dangerous?

The gopher’s extensive underground network of tunnels and burrows destroys the integrity of the ground, and their ravenous appetite ruins gardens, underground pipes, and crops. The mounds and holes on the surface are also a walking hazard, especially for small children.

However, the worst problem with gophers is the diseases that they can transmit. Not only do they have fleas and mites, but they can potentially carry rabies. Gophers can scratch outdoor pets if they come into contact with them in defense.

With all the potential problems southern California gophers bring, it’s essential to catch them early. Since gophers live below ground, how can you tell that they are residing on your property?

Two main behaviors set gophers apart from other rodents. First, gophers eat mainly roots, stems, and bulbs while moles feed on insects. If you notice your bushes dying and never see your bulbs sprout, check the base to see if a gopher has been snacking on them.

Gophers also have a unique burrowing habit, which will help you immediately identify them in your garden or farm. While moles form volcanic-like mounds with displaced soil all around the hole, gophers kick back the dirt on only one side of the opening, creating a half-circle of loose earth.

How can I prevent gophers from ruining my lawn and garden?

The best way to avoid problems with gophers is to prevent them from getting to your plants. Some ways to do this include adding mulch or stones around your plants, using raised beds, or buying bulb baskets to protect them underground.

You can try using castor oil, coffee grounds, peppermint, or rodent repellent directly on the mounds and the soil around your plants if you see that you already have gophers. Although these methods aren’t 100% fool-proof and certainly not an alternative to professional wildlife control, some have found temporary relief from these methods. Trap and release is another method that you’ll undoubtedly hear about by doing some research into gopher control online. While trapping any wildlife can be effective, it can also be a waste of time and effort without proper training.

How can AAI Pest Control get rid of gophers in my yard?

If you find evidence of gopher nesting in your yard or destroying your garden, your best option is to call the pest and wildlife professionals at AAI.

We have been working tirelessly for over three decades to provide businesses and residents in the Central Valley and southern California with innovative pest removal services. Contact us today for professional gopher removal services.

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