Gopher vs. Mole

While moles and gophers both live in sealed, underground tunnels, there are clear differences between these pests, their surface activity and the damage they create. Different sized traps and trapping methods are used for moles than gophers, so careful observation and learning pest identification is essential.

The Camas Pocket Gopher is named for its external fur lined cheek pouches.

The Camas Pocket Gopher is named for its external fur lined cheek pouches. Gophers gather and store plant material underground.

A mole is not a rodent, but an insectivore related to a bat and shrew. Moles eat live prey and cannot store food.

A mole is not a rodent, but an insectivore related to a bat and shrew. Moles eat live prey and cannot store food.

The Camas Pocket Gopher is named for its external fur lined cheek pouches. The gopher packs tender plant material in its pouches, the skin closes tightly around its teeth as the gopher digs and packs until the pouches are full must be taken below. Pocket gophers are herbivores. Roots, tubers, grasses, fruits, veggies are gathered in the fall stored deep in the earth similar to our cold boxes in the cellar. We have photos of food caches on the website.

Gophers are solitary and extremely territorial with two exceptions, during mating and while the female nurses and prepares her young to leave the nest. Gophers live deep in their tunnels for up to five years. Whatever the duration, when a gopher dies a new gopher moves in and uses the established tunnel system. A single gopher system includes intricate food caches, waste caches and grass lined sleeping rooms as deep as 6 feet. Every active tunnel and cache is sealed to keep its scent inside and predators and moisture outside. Adult male gophers often defend territories of up to 2,000 square feet. A series of gopher mounds in one area is the work of one gopher.

Gopher mounds are crescent or horseshoe-shaped and the earthen plug is off to one side. To determine the direction of the tunnel, image how the shape of the mound and placement of the plug is created as the gopher digs up from a lateral at a 45 degree angle that runs 6-12 inches underground. Gently, pop open the plug and probe for the direction of the tunnel. The tunnels will be 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches in diameter. The entire system of tunnels is sealed with earthen plugs.

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Sometimes, a gopher will feed above ground, venturing only a few inches from the tunnel opening. These feed holes look like plugs of dirt with a clipped band of vegetation around the hole.

Pop any fresh earthen plug open. If you opened a vacant tunnel, it will remain open, but if you breached an occupied system, the tunnel will be resealed within a few hours.

Gopher activity: 1) plant damage 2) crescent or horseshoe shaped mounds with a visible plug at the outer edge 3) feed holes marked with 3-4” earthen plugs especially in areas of clover and alfalfa with clipped vegetation around opening.

Stay tuned for moles.

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