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How to trap gophers in your yard

For California gophers, you’ll want to buy the small-size Cinch trap, which has a 2.25-inch jaw opening.
For California gophers, you’ll want to buy the small-size Cinch trap, which has a 2.25-inch jaw opening.

Q: I have gophers, but don’t want to use bait because of my dogs. What else works?

Paul D., Atascadero

A: If you have identified the rodents in your yard as gophers, you can control them two ways — by excluding or trapping them. To exclude them in a raised garden bed, line the bottom of the box with hardware cloth or gopher wire before adding soil to the bed. This approach is also effective for individual shrubs and trees. Use wire baskets at the time of planting and be sure to allow room for root growth.

Trapping includes live traps and kill traps. Live trapping is not a good option if pets have access to the area. Kill traps for gophers come in several shapes and sizes, and every style has its diehard fans. You can go to your local farm store and spend time doing hands-on research until you find a trap you can set yourself.

Here are some tips for trapping success:

▪  Only set traps in fresh mounds. The evening before the first trapping, take a shovel and flatten every mound. The next day, set traps in fresh mounds only.

▪  Use rebar to poke around the mounds. A sudden drop indicates a tunnel passage. Use a small shovel to open the tunnel. Setting two traps facing opposite directions is best. If setting two traps is not feasible, one will do.

▪  Only set traps in an open tunnel. Gophers are clever and will wall off tunnels or create a new branch off the existing tunnel. If you encounter a clever gopher, switch to a different type of trap.

▪  Move the traps daily. Any trap that doesn’t catch a gopher within 24 hours is a lawn ornament. In which case, remove the trap, flatten mound, find a fresh mound, and reset the traps.

▪  Gophers are busy travelers. You may see 10 new mounds (up to 300 feet of tunnel work) created by a single animal in one night.

▪  To protect yourself and your pets, dispose of dead gopher by wearing gloves, double-bag it, and dispose of it in the garbage. Good luck trapping!

Jutta Thoerner is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo, call 805-781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 805-473-7190 and Templeton, 805-434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 805-781-5939.

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