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National Wildlife Control Training Program vol. 1.

Pocket Gopher Control

Scientific Name: Geomys bursarius (Plains Pocket Gopher) Pocket gopher underground. No credits


  • Does Not Hibernate
  • Is active at various times
  • Subterranean life


  • Mounds of soil are about 10-inch or greater diameter.
  • Mounds may appear in series or in clusters. A single gopher may create mounds occurring over a 100 ft. X 100 ft. area.
  • There are no external burrow entrances.
  • Roots of root crops are often severed.
  • Tracks and animal are almost never seen above ground except at mound as burrow is being excavated.


  • Dinner plate-sized mounds with no hole, severed root crops, flower bulbs and young tree roots
  • Tree Damage Pocket gophers girdle growing trees and shrubs at or near ground level. They can remove some or all of tree roots. Trees up to several inches trunk diameter can be killed.
  • Lawn Damage Pocket gophers eat root crops such as carrots from below ground but will readily pull the entire plant belowground. plant damage by pocket gophers. Photo by Dallas VirchowChicory root damage Description: Alfalfa, carrots and other root crops can be damaged by pocket gophers.
    Photo Credits: Dallas Virchow
  • Structural Damage Pocket gopher tunnels can weaken irrigation water canals and dams.
  • Agricultural Damage Pocket gophers remove roots of alfalfa, chicory, turnips, sugar beets, pasture grasses, clovers and other field crops. Their large earth mounds can slow or damage crop harvesting equipment. Their tunnels can divert irrigation water.
  • Safety Hazard Pocket gopher tunnels can weaken irrigation water canals and dams.
  • Plastic tube gnawed by gophercable gnawed by pocket gopher. Photo by Univ. of Nebraska Description: A gopher's gape can span two inches but a larger diameter tube can be gnawed if rough sites occur on its surface.
    Photo Credits: University of Nebraska



Control Methods

pocket gopher. Photo by Univ. of NebraskaA pocket gopher above ground
Description: This only occurs during mound building and during fall migration of young during evening hours.
Photo Credits: University of Nebraska

Habitat Modification

  • Crop rotation
  • Buffers
  • Flooding can be effective in controlling pocket gophers.

Frightening Devices

Nothing shown to be effective


None registered

various pocket gopher traps


  •  Body grip or claw-type traps set below ground in tunnels Pocket gopher kill traps (right).
    Description: must be placed below ground in gopher tunnels.


  • Trap types include Macabee, Victor, DK-1 Klutch, Guardian (California) type, Dk-2 Box, Lanesboro, Cinch Sure Catch, and many others.
  • Cinch Trap Setting Video  Quicktime and Movie
  • Dk-1 Setting Video          Quicktime and Movie
  • Macabee Setting Video      Quicktime and Movie






  • Traps set for pocket gophers below ground
    Description: A single trap can be set into the tunnel leading from the mound to the horizontal feeding tunnel. Or two traps can be set opposite each other in the feeding tunnel.
    Photo Credits: University of Nebraska
    pocket gopher trapping diagram. Line drawing by Univ. of Nebraska


  • hand baiting for pocket gophers. Photo by Univ. of Nebraska.Hand or machine-baiting with treated grains or pellets;  
  • Grain baits and fumigants used below ground.
  • Toxicants applied below ground include zinc phosphide and strychnine.
  • A mechanical hand bait applicator
    Description: These are used like hand probes to insert the tip into belowground tunnels before dispensing toxic bait.
    Photo Credits: University of Nebraska
  • Fumigants include gas cartridges

fumigants. Photo by Univ. of NebraskaFumigants
Description: For burrowing rodent control typically come in cartridges, or occasionally in tablet form. Read label for specific target animals.

Fumigants are not recommended for two reasons. First, gophers will back fill a tunnel when they perceive danger thus preventing the gas from reaching them. Second, pushing gas through the extensive burrowing system typical of pocket gophers is very difficult.


Propane Exploding Devices: New devices on the market utilize a mixture of propane and oxygen which is pumped into the tunnel system and ignited. While the concussion of the explosion would certainly kill the animal (assuming it was close enough), we have not seen any peer-reviewed evidence of its efficacy on pocket gophers at this time. We should also caution potential buyers to consult with their state's division of wildlife BEFORE purchasing such devices. Some states prohibit the use of explosive devices on wildlife.


  • Tractor-drawn applicators for large operations

Burrow builder. Photo by Univ. of Nebraska

A Burrow Builder
Description: Or "gopher getter". This is a tractor-drawn device that applies toxic bait as it creates a tunnel.
Photo Credits: University of Nebraska



University Publications

Control of Pocket Gophers YouTube Pocket Gopher Video by Stephen M. Vantassel --Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln

Controlling Pocket Gopher Damage to Conifer SeedlingsControlling Pocket Gopher Damage--Oregon State

Guide to Pocket Gopher Control in Montana--Montana State Univ. 

Managing Pocket GophersControlling pocket gopher damage--Colorado State

Managing Pocket GophersControlling pocket gopher damage--Iowa State

Pocket Gopher Control--Univ. of Arizona 

Pocket Gophers & Voles in Blueberries--Oregon State University 

Pocket Gophers--Oklahoma State University

Pocket Gophers--Univ. of California


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