How To Trap A Gopher Like a Pro: 5 Easy Steps

Last Modified on February 28, 2024 by Zachary Smith

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If you have gophers in your yard, you have to act fast to remove these pests and mitigate damage.

Here at Smith’s Pest Management, we have more than 15 years of experience in the pest control industry.

We’ve compiled our extensive knowledge into this DIY gopher-trapping guide.

Before You Get Started

gopher damage

  • Inspect the Damage. Check your yard for common signs of gopher activity. Look for crescent-shaped mounds of dirt, which are characteristic of gopher burrows. Unlike molehills, gopher mounds do not have a hole in the center. In severe cases, the holes may make your yard look like Swiss cheese. For more information on differentiating mole and gopher damage, check out this video.
  • Gather Tools and Equipment. Secure a suitable gopher trap; there are many types on the market, so do a bit of research to find the one that’s right for your situation.
  • Invest in a good pair of gloves to protect your hands both from the trap and potential bites. Consider purchasing a soil probe to locate the gopher tunnels accurately.
  • Understand Gopher Behavior. When a gopher escapes a trap or detects one before the trap is even set off, it becomes much harder to catch on the next set. What’s more, if a gopher detects a trap, it will reroute its tunnel. The more a gopher survives encounters with traps, the more it becomes “trap shy.” If your aim is to catch gophers and remove them from your property, remove all traps for at least a week to increase your chances of catching trap-shy gophers.
  • Consider Hiring a Pro. If the infestation is widespread or you’re uncomfortable handling traps, it’s wise to seek professional help. Professional gopher control companies like Smith’s have the expertise and equipment to efficiently deal with gopher problems, potentially saving you time and hassle.

How to Trap a Gopher: A Step by Step Guide

1. Locate the tunnel

  • To locate a gopher tunnel, look for a mound with a plugged opening, which often signifies the main tunnel system below.
  • To find the actual tunnel, probe the ground around the mound using a stick or a commercial probing tool, starting about eight to twelve inches from the mound’s edge, and then work your way around the mound in a circle until you feel the probe give way into the tunnel.

gopher tunnelNote: If the tunnel is exposed, this indicates that it is not an active runway. The gopher would have sealed it from deep within. When heavy rains occur, the top of the tunnel can become soggy and collapse. Water will then run down the inside of the tunnel, causing erosion.

If this is the case, DO NOT place a trap there, as it will not catch any gophers.

2. Open the tunnel

  • Next, use a small spade or trowel to excavate the tunnel. This will allow you to observe the tunnel size, direction, and depth, and it’s also the first step in any control measures you may want to implement to manage a gopher infestation.
  • Remember to exercise caution not to collapse the tunnel and to backfill any holes after your investigation to prevent injury to others and to stop the development of secondary pests.

3. Set the traps

  • Choose the right trap: Select a reliable gopher trap that’s suitable for the size of the gopher you’re dealing with. We like the Gophinator Trap by Trapline Products. Your local garden center will also carry McAbee or Victor traps, which are effective if set carefully.
  • Wear gloves: Use gloves to handle the trap to prevent your scent from transferring and deterring the gopher.
  • Set the trap properly: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to set the trap without setting it off accidentally. Place the trap in the main tunnel, not the lateral ones, for higher chances of catching the gopher, and use appropriate bait, such as fresh vegetables or fruits, to lure the gophers into the trap.
  • Check regularly: Inspect the trap frequently to ensure it remains properly set and to remove any captured gophers promptly.
  • Camouflage the trap: Cover the trap with dirt or grass to hide it from the gopher’s view.
  • Check the trap regularly: Inspect the trap often to see if you’ve caught a gopher and to reset or move the trap as needed.
  • Patience is key: Gopher trapping may take time, so be patient and persistent in your efforts.

4. Mark your traps

  • Secure your traps properly for effective trapping and easy retrieval. One way to do this is by staking down the traps either with a spike or a marking flag. By firmly anchoring the traps, you ensure they stay in place and do not get displaced by any movement in the ground.
  • Additionally, marking the traps with a visible flag makes it easier to locate them later on.
  • After securing the traps, it’s important to close the hole carefully to prevent any escape routes for the gophers. This thorough approach to marking and securing gopher traps can help homeowners effectively manage gopher populations in their yards.

5. Check the traps the next day

  • If you see any dead gophers, promptly remove and dispose of the dead animals.
  • Always wear gloves when handling dead animals to reduce the risk of exposure to harmful pathogens.
  • Keep in mind that, in many regions, there are specific regulations regarding the disposal of dead wildlife to prevent the spread of diseases and protect the environment, so you should always check your local laws first.

Mistakes to Avoid

To make your trapping efforts as effective as possible, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Neglecting to check local regulations before trapping gophers, which could lead to unintended legal consequences.
  • Failing to identify the active gopher tunnels, resulting in ineffective trapping efforts.
  • Setting traps without the appropriate bait or without considering gopher’s dietary preferences.
  • Ignoring safety precautions for both humans and pets when setting and disposing of traps.
  • Forgetting to wear gloves while handling traps, which can transfer human scent and deter gophers.
  • Failing to regularly check and clear traps, potentially causing inhumane conditions for trapped animals or reducing the effectiveness of the trap.
  • Overlooking the importance of ongoing maintenance, such as filling in old tunnels and re-evaluating the gopher population and activity levels.
  • Disregarding alternative or complementary gopher control methods such as habitat modification or repellents.
  • Choosing the wrong type of trap for the specific gopher problem or geographic area.
  • Not properly securing the traps in the ground, which can lead to escape or injury of the animal.

How To Prevent Gophers

To defend your garden or lawn against the unwelcome disturbances caused by gophers, implementing preventive measures is crucial.

Through consistent effort and a variety of strategies, you can discourage these burrowing pests from returning and wreaking havoc on your landscaping efforts. Here are several points to consider:

  • Install underground barriers: Place wire mesh or hardware cloth at least 18 inches below the surface around garden beds to curb gophers from tunneling into the area.
  • Use natural repellents: Castor oil granules, peppermint oil, or predator urine can act as deterrents, as gophers are sensitive to strong scents.
  • Regular inspection and maintenance: Monitoring your garden for early signs of gopher activity, ripping out burrows, and addressing existing gopher damage can help make your yard less appealing for burrowing pests.

We’re Here to Help​

If you’ve exhausted every DIY approach to getting rid of gophers and still find the critters have outwitted you and continue to make their home on your property, take heart. Effective trapping takes skill and know-how, and most people eventually turn the job over to a professional to trap gophers and other pests.

As our clients throughout Northern California have discovered, we’re not your average gopher-trapping service provider. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Licensed: Our extensive list of licenses includes a State Trapper’s License, Qualified Pesticide Applicator’s License, and a State Pest Control Business License.
  • Poison-free: We get rid of gophers and moles without using any poisons, ever.
  • Highly effective: We eliminate the toughest ground squirrel problems using both conventional and nontoxic methods.
  • Locally owned: Our team of gopher service specialists are always nearby and can respond to your needs quickly — often in as little as 24 hours or less.

To schedule critter removal of any kind from your property, contact us today.


What time of day are gophers most active?

Gophers are primarily active during the twilight hours, both after dawn and before dusk. These times allow them to avoid the midday heat and the peak hours of predators.

What attracts gophers to my yard?

Gophers are drawn to yards that provide them with their necessities for survival, which include food, shelter, and moisture.

Your yard might be particularly appealing if it has soft, moist soil that is easy to dig through.

Additionally, gardens with a variety of vegetation, including bulbs, tubers, roots, and grasses, offer a buffet for gophers.

What do gophers eat?

Gophers eat a variety of foods, including roots, tubers, grasses, bulbs, seeds, and even the bark of younger trees.

They tend to consume nearly any vegetation found in close proximity to their tunnel systems, often causing significant damage to gardens, farms, and lawns.

Gophers also have a particular fondness for succulent roots and will pull entire plants into their tunnels from below.

How do you catch a gopher without killing it?

Live gopher traps are the most effective and humane method to capture and relocate these burrowing animals.

These traps should be placed near the entrance or inside the tunnel after carefully uncovering it.

Before you start using live traps, check local regulations regarding the humane capture and release of wildlife.

Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 15+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.