Punxatawney Phil retreated from his shadow on Gobbler’s Knob, predicting a late spring. That was more than two weeks ago, and we are still waiting for a late rainy season to start! Regardless, Punxatawney Phil did his job and has gone back home to hibernate, or whatever he does this time of year. If only all rodents would do the same. Gophers do not ever seem to take any time off.
There is little agreement on how to efficiently evict gophers from the garden. A rodenticide that can only be applied by qualified pesticide applicators is purported to be the most effective means of extermination for large scale landscapes, but is not available to the general public and is very expensive when applied by professional exterminators.
Thumpers, battery powered devices that emit low frequency vibrations at random intervals, are only moderately effective at repelling gophers, and look rather odd in a lawn. Those cheap plastic whirlie thingies that spin in a breeze, causing their wiry stems to vibrate, are probably just as effective if occasionally relocated to keep the gophers from getting too comfortable with them. People who do not consider them to be appealing lawn ornaments think that they are tacky though.
Flooding gopher runs with water, or leaving sharp objects or chewing gum in the runs are generally not effective. It is nearly impossible to flood a system of runs, which is typically equipped with drainage. Gophers who are unfortunate enough to cut themselves on something sharp will bleed to death because their blood does not coagulate, but they are careful to not do so. Likewise, gophers who eat chewing gum will die because they can not digest chewing gum, but they prefer to eat roots. Besides, who really wants make gophers die in such agony?
Good old fashioned McAbee gopher traps, which incidentally were invented in Los Gatos, are probably the most effective means with which to eradicate gophers. They are difficult to set for a beginner; so it is a good idea to get trained by someone with experience. It is also important to set the traps in pairs with one trap in each direction of the main run below the exit tunnel, instead of setting a single trap in the exit tunnel. It takes some extra digging but is worth it. Because each pair catches only a single gopher, the empty trap should be sprung when pulled from the ground to avoid hurting someone. Do not let dogs dig up traps!
Trapping is only a temporary solution. Eventually, more gophers are likely to move in, necessitating more trapping.