Issue: August 19, 1996


Question: I have gophers coming out my ears. Is there an answer to the problem or must I move?

Answer: Gophers can be a major problem once they move into the neighborhood. It is a sad fact, but there are really no humane and effective solutions of which I am aware. Often people who are reluctant to kill things find that gophers can push even them over the edge.

Okay, so how do you kill a gopher? My preference is trapping; others prefer the poison baits or like to use the poison gas cartridges. Preferences are based on which method has been successful for the person with a preference.

Have you called your local USDA Animal Damage Control office? The professionals there can give you good advice as to how to most effectively reduce gopher problems in your area. They may also be able to help you obtain the traps or control chemicals you need.

There are several ways to effectively use the traps. The method I prefer uses two traps placed in the main tunnel. To find the tunnel, probe the soil with a metal rod one to one and one-half feet from the flat side of a fresh soil mound made by the gopher. It is surprising how easy it is to determine when you have found the tunnel. Dig a hole to intersect with the gopher's tunnel. Place the trap into each tunnel exiting the hole you dug. Use wire to stake the trap outside your pit. Then cover the hole you dug with cardboard or plywood to exclude excess fresh air and light. Gophers don't like fresh air and sunlight and will come to investigate what is going on. When they do, they will have an encounter with one of your traps, depending on which direction they are coming from. That is why you need two traps. If there is too much fresh air and light, the gopher will be pushing soil to close the opening. In that case you will catch a bunch of dirt and no gopher. Some people are successful using one trap in the side tunnel which runs from the main tunnel to the soil mound. However, unless you do it just right, you will catch dirt.

Baits and gas cartridges should be placed in the main tunnel which you find in the same manner as described before. Baits are not always effective if there is plenty of other food for the gophers. Gas cartridges may not be successful, especially in dry, cracked clay soils or sandy soils which let the gases escape from the tunnels.

They can tunnel quite deeply, so buried fencing is of very little use. It may interfere with their invasion enough to give you time to use other control measures before they can do too much damage, but it will not stop the gophers.

Moving, as you suggested, may be only a temporary solution. Gophers are problems all over New Mexico and some other states also have problems with moles. As we develop our beautiful home landscapes, we create an environment which invites the gophers to come visit us.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!