Issue: March 18, 2000

Gophers or moles in NM?


My husband and I recently purchased our first home just east of Tijeras. It has a beautiful yard and plenty of gardening space. Our problem is gophers and how to get rid of them. Also, how do you tell the difference between gophers and moles? Do we have moles in New Mexico? Which do the worst damage? I bought a gopher trap, but I would like to know if there is a way to tell how many gophers could be in our yard.


Problems with gophers are common in New Mexico, but according to the wildlife experts, moles do not inhabit New Mexico. Moles eat underground insects and only cause problems by their tunnels and soil disruption. Gophers, on the other hand, eat plant roots and other underground parts of plant. They do significant damage to our fruit and landscape plants.

Regarding the number of gophers causing your problem, it is probably fewer than you think. Gophers do not like other gophers and will fight to the death if there is an invader in the tunnels. I have been told that only six to eight gophers can inhabit a single acre. It just looks like there are more there. To determine how many you have, rake down the gopher mounds in the late afternoon. The next day, count the number of clusters of new mounds that appear (not the number of new mounds). This number is an estimate of how many gophers are causing your problems. The mounds should be in separate groupings because the gophers don't want to encounter the other gophers.

Trapping is an effective means of reducing the problem of gophers once you develop skill at properly placing and setting the trap. You will need at least two traps to effectively trap the gophers. Once you dig and expose the currently active gopher tunnel, you will need to place a trap facing inward in each arm of the exposed tunnel. Then place a piece of plywood or cardboard over the hole you dug to prevent too much fresh air from entering the tunnel and warning the gopher.

There are publications to help you understand the gopher behavior and teach gopher management options available from your local Cooperative Extension Service Office. In these publications you will read in more detail the methods for trapping gophers.

Once the problem seems eliminated, remain vigilant since new gophers rapidly reoccupy the tunnels that remain. If you respond rapidly, you can prevent the new gophers from causing major damage.

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!