Attached is a photo of the homemade tools I recommend to prep the tunnel AFTER the plug and debris have been carefully been cleaned out. My friend has a wood lathe and sharpens my bats and dowels. Be creative if you don’t have access to a lathe. File, whittle or otherwise sharpen the tip as the photo displays.
Insert the sharpened end of the baseball bat in the gopher tunnel about 10” and lift up-down-right-left. This action creates a reverse funnel leaving the area of the tunnel 10” inside undisturbed. The funnel is slightly wider at the surface where you will be inserting the trap. DO NOT set the wires yet. Open the lever arm so the tines of the jaws are just touching. The lever arm will be at the 12 or 1 o’clock position. This position is the smallest circumference of the jaws and provide the best opportunity to get the jaws inside the tunnel with the least disturbance.
I have a YouTube video of me setting the wires and checking the trigger wire AFTER inserting the trap. I’ll show you how to hold the trap open while inserting the jaws. I show you how to set wire #1 with the left hand freeing the right hand to set wire #2 and so on. Go to my channel: Gophergoner.
Creating this reverse funnel hardens the soil and holds the earth together while you set the trap inside the tunnel. This method is particularly important if you live in areas with high sand content in the soil. In Florida, for example, the soil is almost all sand. It may be necessary to dig deeper to find enough moisture to hold the sandy soil together while the trap is set.
Do the same steps for preparing a mole tunnel, but use a 1-1/4″ dowel cut about 16 inches long. Dowels can be purchased from any big box store. Wooden baseball bats are becoming scarce. I scour all the thrift stores regularly. If you can’t find a baseball bat, purchase a 2” dowel, but cut it 30 inches, the approximate length of a baseball bat. You will need the 30 inches as a lever to create that natural 45 degree angle. Gopher surface tunnels come off an underground lateral, but the tunnels are never straight. Broom handles just won’t give you the same results as a bat or 2” dowel. Using the baseball bat (or 2” dowel), packs the soil and straightens any crannies and crooks only for 10” so the trap sits neatly with little disturbance.
Note: If the gopher tunnel is 3” in diameter, the gopher who dug the tunnel is an adult male. In this case, setting the wires after insertion is not necessary since the set trap fits easily into the tunnel without disturbance. Sometimes, I will grab a clump of dirt or a small rock and set under the sheet metal to gain a proper angle on the entire trap. Gophers dig up from their lateral at an angle. As you look at the crescent shape of the mound on the surface, you can image the gopher kicking dirt to create that crescent shape. Open 10 or 20 plugs. Use the tool to locate the direction of the tunnel. Practice and you’ll begin to learn which direction the tunnel leads.
I recommend spending $5 to buy my digging tool. Notice the marks on the digging tool. The marks refer to the medium trap – used for trapping gophers. The mark closest to the spoon shows where the TRIGGER sits when inserted inside the tunnel. After you have inserted the jaws of the trap inside the tunnel, gently open the lever arm so the jaws are at the open position. Now, set wire #1 over the lever arm. Hold wire #1 with your left hand so your right hand is free to set wire #2 over wire #1. Let go of wire #1 with your left hand and grasp wire #2 with your left thumb. Now your right hand is free to grab the trigger wire. Test that the trigger glides smoothly inside the tunnel. If the wire is stuck on a root or rock, the trigger will not perform its function. The gopher will not become ensnared in the jaws because the rock or root stops the jaws from collapsing. If the trigger wire is stuck, gently take the wires apart, hold the lever arm so the jaws are barely open, and remove the trap from the tunnel. Check the trigger. There will be evidence of the obstruction on the trigger, either 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock or 12 o’clock to three o’clock. Now, use the spoon to gently scrap or clean ONLY the area where the trigger was catching inside the tunnel. Do not clean the entire 10 inches of the tunnel! Enlarging the entire area will create an opportunity for the gopher (or mole) to avoid the jaws, circumvent the trigger and spring the trap. Reset the trap and check the trigger wire.
The mark closest to the handle shows where the JAWS sit when the trap is inserted inside the tunnel. Check for forked tunnels inside the 10” area where the trap will be set. Gently run the spoon down one side of the tunnel checking for a second tunnel or fork in the tunnel you have chosen to set your trap. Turn the spoon over and run the spoon up the other side. You will feel a release. Remember feeling the release when you were searching for the plug in the crescent shaped surface mound? The same release you felt when you found the plug will alert you to a forked or second run off the tunnel you are using to set the trap.
The next step is very important! If there is a fork inside the tunnel BEFORE the second mark on the tool, the gopher will enter the tunnel at the trigger instead of below the jaws. A couple of things can happen. One, the gopher will back fill the entire trap and return to its lateral to live another day. Two, the gopher will spring the trap and return to its lateral to live another day. If you discover forks BEFORE that mark in the area you want to set the trap, you have two choices. One, close everything up and find another fresh mound. Two, dig deeper and find both tunnels. Set a trap in each direction. I’m lazy. I don’t like to dig, but sometimes this unfortunate situation is your only option, and one must dig. Given the choice, I close up the opening I just created and look for another fresh mound.
However, if there is a fork AFTER the second mark on the tool, no worries. No matter which tunnel, the gopher will enter the tunnel below the jaws and be directed up the wires of the jaws, hit the trigger, and bang! A hit is obvious from the surface. The lever arm will be at 12 or 1 o’clock. If the trap is sprung, the lever arm will sit at 3 o’clock.
If the lever arm is in the 3 o’clock position and the wires are sprung, the trap appears to be empty, but don’t give up. The gopher (or mole) might be caught by a leg, a foot, fur or muscle. The trap will look like it’s empty, but you might have your animal by fur or muscle. Gently, gently, pull the trap from the tunnel. Have the digging tool on the ground next to the tunnel. If the gopher (or mole) is caught by the point of the jaw, it will fall off as you pull the trap. You’ll have a second or two to give the cu-de-gras before it runs back into its tunnel.
Disregard the marks if using the small traps. Moles don’t dig forked tunnels like gophers. Use the tool to locate the plug and clean the debris from the mole tunnel. Insert the 1-1/4” dowel lifting up-down-right-left as I described for prepping the gopher tunnel.
If you find you’re trapping a gopher and find the trap sprung several times, and you know you’ve set a good trap, switch to the small trap. You may be trapping a juvenile gopher about the size of a mole.
Sharpen the jaw that moves to a sharp point. Both gophers and moles are hemophiliacs. If you wing them hard enough, they will bleed out in their tunnel. If you find a missed trap, always check for fur and muscle on the tine. Insert the trap again. If no activity for 24-hours, you know the gopher (or mole) bled out.
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