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How to poison a gopher

May 13, 2013 -
  How to poison a gopher
Tricia holds the Young Gopher Tool, used to check for gopher burrows, and to place poisonous gopher bait underground.

Did you ever want to poison a gopher? If you have gophers in your garden you know how hard it can be to control them organically.

One of the worst moments for a vegetable gardener is watching a tall tomato plant disappear underground. That’s a gopher at work, pulling your carefully nurtured plant down to his lair.

In our latest video, about Getting Rid of Gophers, Tricia shows the organic controls for gophers including creating barriers in your garden and setting traps.

Sometimes the organic controls are not enough to remove gophers from your garden, and then you have to decide if you want to depart from organic gardening and use more toxic methods. Poisoning gophers is still within the principles of Integrated Pest Management, which goes beyond organic gardening into conventional and toxic measures on occasion. The UC Davis IPM site on gophers goes straight past barriers and advocates trapping and baiting with poison.

Gopher poison can endanger children, pets and other wildlife

The poisons used in gopher bait will also harm other creatures like children, dogs, cats, and wild birds. BE SURE that you place the gopher bait securely underground.

If the bait is not placed in the gopher burrow, and is somewhere it can be reached by a child, or a digging dog, you could have a tragedy on your hands.

A poisoned gopher that emerges from its burrow also presents a danger to a dog, cat or bird of prey in your garden. They have all have been known to eat poisoned gophers, with fatal results.

The Young Gopher Tool is designed to carry the bait and leave it in the gopher’s burrow. Be careful to use the Gopher Tool properly and don’t leave any bait on the surface of the ground.

To keep other creatures safe, bury the poisoned gopher 2 feet underground and place rocks on the surface to discourage diggers.

Choices in poisonous gopher baits

The active ingredient in Wilco Gopher Bait Type 2 is .005% diphacionone, which is an anti-coagulant. This bait must be consumed by the gopher for 3 to 4 days in a row.

Wilco Gopher Bait Zinc has 2% zinc phosphide and is effective when eaten once.

gopher hole with plug

How to identify a gopher hole

Before you place the bait in the burrow, double-check to be sure that the critter is really a gopher!

Gardens have a lot of foot traffic from humans, pets and wildlife—and the characteristic, above-ground features of a gopher burrow can be rearranged, making it harder to identify the animal that lives there.

You have probably read that the gopher hole is at the corner of a horseshoe-shaped pile of dirt. In rocky or clay soil you may not see the shape of the dirt pile, but you will still see the plug that the gopher leaves to block the entrance to its burrow. The plug is clearly visible in the photo above.

mole mound
Moles also plug their holes, but you cannot find the plug in the volcano-shaped mounds they create, like this one above.

snake hole
Snakes, ground squirrels, and voles do not plug holes, as you can see above.

For more information about alternative means of dealing with gophers, see all our gopher traps and controls.

If you have to poison a gopher, be cautious and ensure that is the only animal that will die in your garden.

Categories: Animal & Bird Control, Gopher Traps, Rodent Bait, Organic Gardening 101

Ruth von Goertz Says:
May 25th, 2013 at 7:09 am

I am using castor oil mixed with H2O which I spray all over the affected area.  This seems to be working - at least for a month now.  However, they find new areas.

Deb Gledhill Says:
May 26th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I am appalled that anybody would even consider killing an animal for doing what it is genetically programmed to do. We must remember that we have encroached upon their territory and if we are to share that space we must at the very least respect the creature that is having to make do with less. I have many, many gophers and they ate at least half my crop the first year. I was not happy with that but instead of getting angry I educated myself on their behaviour. With a little bit of extra expense and time,  I now do not have to share any of my crop. The gophers can and do graze all around the outside of the garden but never enter the space. I throw the odd tidbit to them with much appreciation for the sacrifice they have made that allows me to garden. Any fool can kill. We are supposed to be of superior intelligence so why not bring truth to that theory and out smart the furry little creatures instead.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
May 28th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Deb, Thank you for your comment about controlling gophers. Could you tell us what techniques you used to keep them out of your garden? One system that works is taking a roll of 4’ wide gopher wire, and burying it 3’ deep around the edge of the garden, leaving 1’ above-ground as a fence to deter gophers (but not ground squirrels).

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
May 28th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Ruth, Glad that the castor oil spray is working so far! UC Davis IPM does not mention it for gophers http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7433.html but they talk about research on castor oil as deterrent for moles on the East Coast http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74115.html

Deb Gledhill Says:
May 28th, 2013 at 11:29 pm

I am happy to share my technique for keeping the wildlife out of my garden. I must clarify however that I am dealing with Richardson Ground Squirrels which are referred to as “gophers” in this part of Canada. I buried a strip of 4 foot wide,1” mesh chicken wire 2 feet deep, leaving the other 2 feet running vertical. I then ran another 2 foot wide strip of 1” mesh horizontally, secured it to the vertical mesh and weighted it down with a few stones. My garden is 30’ x 35’ and in the middle of “gopher” central and one would think they would just burrow under but they don’t. Ground Squirrels must be within a foot of their anticipated target or they will not burrow….just a little quirk of theirs and an advantage for me. I have never killed a gopher, squirrel, rabbit etc. and never will. There is ALWAYS another way, one just needs to observe, research and use intelligence:)

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
May 30th, 2013 at 10:12 am

Deb, Thanks for the details on how you protected your garden. I know our readers will appreciate it, as do all of us here.

dan shaffer Says:
May 30th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

We have a farm growing olives for oil in coastal California 50 miles south of San Francisco.

We have many, many gophers and moles and have not had a significant problem with our olive trees. Our family vegetable gardens are all on raised beds with underlying hardware cloth and weed mat. However, we also have over 600 native plants in very long hedgerows both raised bed and ground level and have lost several mature plants to gophers. We are organic (not yet certified) in all our practices, will not use any pesticides or herbicides except those certified for organic use (non-toxic to humans, pets and/or wildlife). We will not kill anything on our farm. While we do not enjoy losing plants, shrubs or even immature trees, we go by the philosophy that they were here first. So far this has worked for us for the past 10 years. As stated in comments regarding this issue, toxic poisons will end up killing many beneficial insects, wildlife and who knows what else could be affected. Those chemicals that cause internal bleeding cause unending suffering to any who ingest them and a slow and painful death. Deb Gledhill is correct in every respect.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
May 31st, 2013 at 11:14 am

Dan, Your farm sounds wonderful! Thank you for letting us know about your philosophy of farming organically in harmony with the creatures on your land.

Kay Says:
Nov 11th, 2013 at 8:00 pm

If Deb is still here, or if someone else knows, which direction does the wire lay on the ground - toward the garden beds or toward the outside?  Also, I have many times researched chemicals in the ground, and found that certain ones stay forever.  All of them will spread through the ground with your water, so none should be anywhere near edible plants, especially the animal killers.  They seep into the roots of your plants if the water underground travels that far.  Chemical manufacturers play down the deadliness and cautions of their products, so please everyone, don’t be fooled into thinking something is safe to use anywhere on farmland.  The best way to know your produce is actually organic, is to have it lab tested to see what chemicals they may be pulling up from the soil, even if you don’t use chemicals.  You may be surprised what you find.  Air, water, and older chemical uses or spills in or nearby do often influence your own gardens.  Good wishes to all!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Dec 14th, 2013 at 4:53 am

Kay, Thank you for your thoughts on this topic! I assume that Deb meant the horizontal mesh wire would go outside the garden area, beyond the perimeter created by the vertical mesh. Perhaps Deb can clarify that for us?

Peggy Karp Says:
May 17th, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Deb and Charlotte,

What about the gophers and ground squirrels that were inside your wire barriers—in the garden area—when you installed them?

Robert Haehnel Says:
Jul 27th, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I tend to believe in concepts like “survival of the fittest” and the food chain, but I also have bit of Zen in me as well.  Thus, I struggle with killing anything (preferring to hypocritically let others do the dirty work for me, e.g., my local butcher and Foster Farms).  Pocket Gophers are destroying my property.  I can protect my raised gardens fine, but they are trashing my lawn and collapsing my 700 foot paver driveway.  Any brilliant, cost effective ideas?

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Jul 31st, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Well probably the most cost effective method to rid yourself of the gophers would be to use traps. They are reusable and can be very effective.

marcia s Says:
Jan 2nd, 2015 at 1:17 pm

I am just trying to picture this barrier….is it like and underground wire mesh fence that goes around the perimeter of the garden?

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 9th, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Yes, it is wire mesh that must be buried so to create a barrier to gophers.

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