I came across a blog post today from the Contra Costa Master Gardener’s about what to do about gophers if you want to keep them out of your garden but not kill them. The article on excluding gophers can be found here.
This comes up often. We understand the interest in not killing gophers or moles in the garden. The garden is about cultivating life! Many gardeners refrain from the use of anything that is designed to kill, like herbicides and pesticides. A gopher trap is not a good solution for this type of gardener. The problem is pretty complicated though, because it is not really feasible to live-trap and relocate a gopher. Yes it can be done, but there is the age old question of “would it be better to swiftly kill a pest or accidentally injure it and cause lifelong suffering in our attempt to humanely relocate it?” I feel that it is the best interest of the gopher that it never have to be handled by a human or a contraption, but that it be excluded from the garden altogether.
How To Keep A Gopher Out Of A Garden
First off, if you have a gopher now, and you don’t kill it, you can assume that you will always have a gopher (or many gophers as time progresses) so you will be best off to just build your garden around that fact and start with raised beds. Raised beds are the easiest path to excluding gophers. Line the bottoms of these raised beds with a heavily galvanized wire mesh, that has openings in the mesh no larger than 1/2 inch.
You can also find stainless steel gopher wire that will last a lot longer. Don’t use chicken wire, it rusts away very quickly. When your wire rusts, you will need to excavate all the soil out of your garden beds and reinstall a new screen of wire. This is a lot of work so you want the best gopher wire you can find. Excluding gophers should not cause more damage to the garden than they would create themselves!
Those noise making devises sold in stores tend to not work well at excluding gophers, and they are annoying to be around. There is also little to be gained from repellents or all the various products that folks may tell you to put in or around a gopher hole to repel the animal. I suggest staying away from these type of gopher repellents because they are taking time away from getting to your final gopher solution, and time is of the essence!
Coming To Terms With Killing Gophers
I trap a lot of gophers, and yes its a little heartbreaking to think about, but we know this fact: Kill one today or be forced to kill 5 tomorrow. If you have a gopher-free yard it is often best to kill a new arrival. Any gardener will agree that having a yard overrun by gophers is about the worst case situation anyone could ask for. You will rue the day you let the new critter begin to breed and populate your property. If simple exclusion ins’t working, we really suggest that you have them trapped and killed. (It is a swift death). We don’t recommend using poison. It is less effective and can find its way into the bodies of other animals. See more: “How to trap a gopher”.