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How to Poison a Gopher

By on May 13, 2013

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.

  Comments (19)


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.

Posted by Ruth von Goertz on May. 25, 2013 at 7:09:27 AM


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.

Posted by Deb Gledhill on May. 26, 2013 at 2:04:43 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).

Posted by on May. 28, 2013 at 2:54:40 PM

Ruth, Glad that the castor oil spray is working so far! UC Davis IPM does not mention it for gophers but they talk about research on castor oil as deterrent for moles on the East Coast

Posted by on May. 28, 2013 at 3:22:55 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:)

Posted by Deb Gledhill on May. 28, 2013 at 11:29:48 PM

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

Posted by on May. 30, 2013 at 10:12:39 AM


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.

Posted by dan shaffer on May. 30, 2013 at 3:20:58 PM

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.

Posted by on May. 31, 2013 at 11:14:11 AM


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!

Posted by Kay on Nov. 11, 2013 at 7:00:40 PM

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?

Posted by on Dec. 14, 2013 at 3:53:11 AM


Deb and Charlotte,

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

Posted by Peggy Karp on May. 17, 2014 at 1:39:54 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?

Posted by Robert Haehnel on Jul. 27, 2014 at 12:56:56 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.

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jul. 31, 2014 at 5:02:29 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?

Posted by marcia s on Jan. 02, 2015 at 12:17:08 PM

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

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Jan. 09, 2015 at 12:48:11 PM


Awesome post Charlotte, you evoked some good conversation here.  Poison is always a bad choice.  It does not discriminate, has no conscience, and may linger on longer than you would suspect.  Bait in this context is a euphemism for poison… if you need to use a euphemism then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

  I have never tasted gopher but to any meat eaters this could be a desirable option for survival.  Even if you don’t believe in consuming meat and just leave it for the scavengers (not as bad as some may think) then if you are going to kill an animal you sure as hell better ensure you have the right target.  Trap the hole with a fast killing trap or kill it personally (be prepared for possible emotional consequences (to Robert’s point).  The personal kill is preferable from the safety point of view (unless you are Chenney) but a trap should be able to be safe-guarded against unintended victims by use of barriers.  Whereas, poison can be passed from intended victims to unintended victims.

All that said, barriers are the most effective method of pest control.  Science is great but the science of chemicals and other weaponry comes at a cost.  If you understand your “pest” then you can protect your assets from the “pest” without disrupting it’s life or it’s role in an ecosystem.  A similar approach works with “weeds”.  I use the quotes due to the nebulous meanings of the words.  Raised gardens and greenhouses are awesome, non-destructive uses of science.


Posted by Joe from Here on Apr. 21, 2015 at 5:18:19 PM


Some of the comments here are hillarious. Especially Deb. I will happily trap my gophers and ship them to her so they can live in harmony. Gopher is a destructive pest and as such needs to be controlled. Trapping is a lot of work. Zinc phosphide is much easier and will disolve in time. You will never completely be rid of gophers, you will just have to control them. I tried to use the burried fence but the little bastards will go up on the surface and reburry once over the fence. That is how they ate my fenced in fig.

Posted by Johne on May. 17, 2015 at 3:30:24 PM


I have a HUGE gopher problem. My back yard borders a nature preserve.
I planted new fruit trees this spring and they just sat there no sign of growing. Some day I put the hose into the dirt to water deeper it went deep withoutout dirt resistance. After reading up on what to do I bought plenty of garlic separated the cloves, cut them in halves put holes every couple of inches ln a circle around the little tree. 2 days later I had new growth on the tips of the branches and it has thrived since then Now I have garlic burried everywhere. For control in the the lawn I open the furrows with the hose and the rat snakes and other snakes go on a feeding frenzy at night. It all works.No poison no traps nature does it all.

Posted by viviane on May. 26, 2015 at 7:09:10 AM


What a good idea. I planted a young peach tree and the same thing is happening. Not dying but no new growth either. I also have a gopher problem and they are probably eating the roots. They killed a nicely growing apple tree my son got me for mothers day. Anyway, will try the garlic and hopefully that will work. I also read in a farmers almanac that soaking dryer sheets in amonia and putting them down the gopher holes causes them to find another area to burrow because the odor is so strong and offensive it drives them away and harms nothing. This does work but very time consuming and they will return so it is an ongoing procedure. I like the idea of the garlic and the mesh wire and raised beds. Wish me luck , I also have no desire to kill even though gophers are quite the nuisance.

Posted by Linda Maloney on Sep. 05, 2015 at 8:22:11 AM

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