my battle with the “underworld” Part I

I am not a hunter. I don’t like stalking my food; I prefer to grow it. When we moved into our house I knew that I wanted to plant fruit trees right away so that we could start harvesting home grown fruit sooner rather than later. I also knew that gophers love to chew on the roots of newly planted trees and that even though I don’t like killing animals I would have to do something about the gophers to be successful at growing fruit. If you like gophers, think they are cute, are a hippie tree huger, or don’t like dealing with the reality of food production, you may want to stop reading now. If, however, you are interested in growing things and how to control some of the underground rodents who like to eat those things, please keep reading. Let me just mention that I think it’s more environmentally friendly to eat plants than animals which is a good way to justify killing gophers (so I can eat plants). To be REALLY environmentally friendly I would eat the plants and the gophers that I catch as well, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do that. Sorry about the picture, I was going for a beautiful shot of a gopher mound in the setting sun…something romantic and picturesque…oh well.

Joey's iPhone pictures Oct 2014 509

I am a scientist and I enjoy experimenting. What follows are some of the methods and products that I have experimented with in my battle with the underworld.  I have not set up any controlled experiments but I do have quite a bit of experience and I hope it is helpful to you.

***Spoiler alert** Trapping with The Gophinator Gopher Trap has been most effective for me. Now you don’t have to read the rest of the post but you may find the reviews and tips at the end helpful.

A pocket gopher's entry hole
A pocket gopher’s entry hole

Method 1: Poison – Yes I have used poison… shame on me. The first six peach trees that I planted I put a ring of poison pellets around the roots. I have also used it periodically to put directly in the gopher runs as directed on the poison.

Pros: It’s relatively easy to find gopher runs by poking holes around a mound with a long screwdriver and then dropping in the pellets. It can prevent future gophers from occupying the tunnels if there is some poison left over.

Cons: It’s poison. In other words it’s not entirely safe for pets, children, local predators etc. You can’t tell if you have killed the gopher.

Results: I lost three of my six peach trees which you could look at as a 50% failure or a 50% success rate. Considering the negatives of poisons I’m going with the 50% failure rate..I have no doubt that I killed some gophers with this method but I have no idea how many. There is no way to tell…well, almost no way. Poisoned gophers have a tendency to seek water and often end up in pools…yuck. I may have saved some trees but I don’t see a long term solution here.


Method 2: Noise making repelants – I did try Sweeney’s Mole and Gopher Solar Spike as a way to keep gophers out of my yard. It sends out a puls of noise that apparantly is irritating to gophers (and this particular human).

Pros: It is easy. It is non lethal.

Cons: They don’t work. They make a buzzing noise every few minutes that is audible. I have to hand it to the marketers though because somehow I got the impression that they were either sub sonic or ultra sonic and that I wouldn’t hear them at all but rather they would just silently repel the gophers. Working in the backyard with an intermittent and annoying buzzing sound that doesn’t repel gophers at all just didn’t seem like a practice I wanted to continue.


Method 3: The Rodenator – A buddy of mine and I purchased one of these. The concept is to inject a propane/oxygen mixture into the gopher runs that will explode when ignited, kill gophers and collapse tunnels.

Pros: It works as advertised. If you like explosions, it’s really fun to use.

Cons: It is LOUD. Even with double ear protection I got a headache using it. It tears up the ground. You can’t know for sure how many gophers you have killed (although I’m pretty sure it kills quite a few).

Results: I used it twice and couldn’t handle the noise. A friend of mine cleared his whole property of gophers over a few days with it. This is not to say they didn’t come back (he could see them headed back to his property and came and borrowed it a few more times) but he did get them eliminated for a time. I found when I did use it that it would collapse most tunnels but the deeper ones didn’t always collapse especially in hard dried clay.

Tip: You may want to contact your local authority before you use it, especially if you are in city limits. The friend mentioned above had a police officer stop by his house when he was using it. He had his handcuffs ready and the the bomb squad on alert. Everything turned out alright, in fact, after explaining what it was a number of the bomb squad team members wanted to purchase one.


Method 4: Gas – The only method of gasing I have tried is The Giant Destroyer Gas Bomb. I have heard that road flares are effective but haven’t tried them. I am interested in trying trying the Gopher X Pest Control and Extermination but it seems a bit pricey. I have also heard that you can buy a set up to hook up to your lawn mower exhaust.

Pros: It kills the gophers in the tunnels. It doesn’t linger like poison does.

Cons: You can’t see what you have killed.

Results: The gas bombs that I used didn’t seem to be effective at all as far as I could tell. From what I understand you need quite a bit of gas to get it into all of the tunnels which is what makes road flares (they burn for 15 minutes or more) and the Gopher X Pest Control and Extermination attractive to me. I’ll post on those items if I take the time to try them out.


Method 5: Traps – Traps are the most effective method I have used and the one I will continue to use. I have to admit even though I don’t like to hunt I do like to know when I have successfully made a kill. There is a bit of a sense of accomplishment. And, when battling for my precious fruit trees, the evidence that there is one less set of rodent teeth chewing on their roots is nice to see.

Pros: You can see you made a kill! They are effective when used properly.

Cons: They  require more set up and patience. It takes time to learn trapping skills. Sometimes the traps don’t kill and you have to do some “shovel work.”

I have had the most success with traps and they are what I am moving forward with. The following is a list of traps that I have used and which ones if found most effective.

Victor The Black Box Gopher Trap 0625

The Black Box Gopher Trap

Pros: This trap is well designed and durable (the only one that “broke” was backed over by a car). You can set it on just the entry hole so you don’t have to do as much digging. You can visibly see when the trap is set. It kills cleanly (I have never had a live gopher in this type of trap.) Stainless steel spring that doesn’t rust.

Cons: Gophers get shy of this trap. There have been countless times when I have found this trap stuffed full of dirt from the tunnel without being tripped. Sometimes even resetting doesn’t help. It seems the gophers have learned to recognize this trap.


Black Hole Gopher Trap

Black Hole Gopher Trap

Pros: A noose type trap with a powerful spring. It  fits the entrance of the holes nicely. I can easily see when it is tripped without digging. It kills cleanly.

Cons: Gophers can become shy of this trap as well and fill it with dirt (it is similarly designed to black box gopher trap). There have been a number of knock offs of this trap claiming to be the real ones. I bought mine on ebay and had all of them break within a year. If you choose to use it make sure you buy the real one.


Sweeney's Gopher Trap, 2 Pack S9013

Sweeney’s Gopher Trap

Pros: Some people swear by them.

Cons: I have yet to catch a gopher with one of these. In fairness they were one of the first types of traps I used when I was still learning how to trap.



Pros: You can set these in just the entry hole. The video I watched didn’t involve as much closing of the tunnel with dirt (they look simpler to be successful with).

Cons: They are not stainless steel and the trigger mechanism seems to stick sometimes. I had moderate success with these.



Death-Klutch Steel gopher trap

Pros: It has a powerful spring action that should kill the gopher quickly. They are relatively inexpensive

Cons: They are not stainless steel and rust.


The Gophinator Gopher Trap

Pros: This is my favorite and most effective trap. It is stainless steel which keeps it working well even when I leave it out in damp conditions. It catches the gophers on the first try. The only time I haven’t caught the gopher was when I didn’t place the trap properly. It just plain works.

Cons: To work effectively you have to dig down and set a trap in both sides of a gopher run but this is the reality of using traps.  Be careful when setting because the spring is powerful and if you slip when setting it it can come back around and whack your fingers.

Tips for effective trapping:

1. Wear gloves both for hand protection and reduction of human scent on the traps

2. Clean traps frequently to remove scents

3. Add peanut butter to bait the trap

4. Add a wire to the trap with a white pvc fitting attached or some other noticeably colored object to help locate the trap later

5. Set traps in the evening when you come home from work and check them/reset them the following evening.

6. Be persistent.

I hope this is helpful to you in your battle with the underworld. Happy hunting!