Fencing & habitat

Pocket gophers

gopher feeding holes

Pocket gopher feed holes and clipped vegetation.


Underground fencing might be justified for valuable ornamental shrubs or landscape trees. To protect existing plantings, bury hardware cloth or 3/4-inch mesh poultry wire at least 2 feet deep with an additional 6 inches of mesh or wire bent at a 90-degree angle away from the planting. This will help keep gophers from digging around the fencing boundary. Also extend the fencing at least 1 foot aboveground to deter gophers moving overland. This method is not perfect, however, because persistent gophers can burrow below the wire; also, the wire can restrict and damage root growth of trees.

You can protect small areas such as flower beds by complete underground screening of the bed’s sides and bottoms. When constructing raised vegetable or flower beds, underlay the soil with wire to exclude gophers. To protect individual plants, install wire baskets, which you can make at home or buy commercially, at the same time you are putting the plants into the ground. If you use wire, use one that is light gauge and only for shrubs and trees that will need protection while young. Leave enough room to allow for the roots to grow. Galvanized wire provides the longest-lasting protection.

Six to 8 inches of coarse gravel 1 inch or more in diameter around underground sprinkler lines or utility cables also can deter gophers.

Natural Controls

Because no population will increase indefinitely, one alternative to a gopher problem is to do nothing, letting the population limit itself. Experience has shown, however, that by the time gopher populations level off naturally, they’ve already caused much damage around homes and gardens.

Predators—including owls, snakes, cats, dogs, and coyotes—eat pocket gophers. Predators rarely remove every prey animal but instead move on to hunt at more profitable locations. In addition, gophers have defenses against predators. For example, they can escape snakes in their burrows by rapidly pushing up an earthen plug to block the snake’s advance. Relying solely on natural predators might not control gophers to the desired level.

Some people have tried attracting barn owls to an area by installing nest boxes. Although barn owls prey on gophers, their habit of hunting over large areas, often far from their nest boxes, and their tendency to hunt areas with abundant prey, make them unreliable for gopher control. When a single gopher, which is capable of causing damage rapidly, invades a yard or garden, a gardener can’t afford to wait for an owl to arrive. It is better to immediately take effective action, usually through trapping or baiting.

Habitat modification

Reducing gopher food sources using either chemical or mechanical methods can decrease the attractiveness of lawns and gardens to gophers. If feasible, remove weedy areas adjacent to yards and gardens to create a buffer strip of unsuitable habitat.

Top of page | Full site