How do I control gophers that are destroying my lawn?
Many people confuse moles and gophers. Moles have an elongated snout with tiny eyes, no external ears and broad front feet with heavy claws. They feed on earthworms and grubs. Their tunnels are usually visible near the surface as they search for food. Pocket gophers have a rounded snout on their broad head with exposed yellowish, incisor teeth. The ears are small, but visible.
Their front toes have stout claws, but their paws are not broad. Gophers feed on plant roots, bulbs, seeds, leaves and tender stems. Gopher tunnels are from four to 18 inches below the ground, so only the mounds are visible. The mounds are on lateral tunnels where the gopher pushes the soil to clean out the main tunnel.
The two main methods for controlling gophers are by trapping or the use of poison bait. If the soil is clay based, flooding may kill them or force the gopher to the surface. They may be excluded from a property by various repellents, but these are often either temporary or not successful.
To trap a gopher, excavate the mound and dig back in the lateral tunnel until you find the main tunnel. Place a trap with the open end of the trap pointing into each end of the tunnel. Secure the traps to a stake by means of a wire or light chain. Cover the hole with a clod of soil or a piece of wood to exclude light from the tunnel. Check traps morning and evening.
There are various kinds of toxic baits that can be used. Stores carry poisoned peanuts. Baits can be made with carrots or sweet potatoes that are dusted with strychnine. However, extreme caution should be observed when handling any kind of poison. Use a sharpened stick or metal pipe to locate the runs. Place a few pieces of the bait into each opening and cover over.
For a free fact sheet with more information on controlling gophers, you can go online to http://osufacts.okstate.edu and search for NREM-9001.
For more information contact the OSU Extension Center, 14001 Acme Road, corner of MacArthur and Acme Road in Shawnee or 273-7683.