Instructables

How to trap a gopher

If you live out in the stick of the Midwest as I do, one of the many pests you may run into is gophers. You typically do not see gophers in your yard because they spend most of their time underground. But you do see the dirt they have dug out to make their tunnels. These show up in the form of "Gopher Mounds."

I am going to show you how I take care of these rodents. There is plenty of information out on the Internet about gophers but not on how to catch them. What I have found is very basic and it always goes back to "You should hire a professional because you won't be able to do this on your own."

I am here to tell you that you can do it on your own and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. It will cost the gophers their lives. You need to make the choice as to what is more important, your lawn, garden, trees, personal safety, or the life of a gopher. At my house, the gopher loses.

Here is what you will need:
- shovel
- leather gloves (or use your bare hand if you don't mind all of the greasy, grimy, gopher guts.)
- gopher traps (assume 2 per mound)
- chain or wire to secure the traps in place
- stake to hold the chain or wire in place
- wood, plastic, cardboard, something to cover the hole you dig to help block out light

Optional
- two feet of rebar or wooden dowel (to help find tunnels)
 
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PacificBlu35 months ago

wow. old thread im turning into a zombie (u know, the living dead, as in this thread was dead and now its alive..... lawlz)
any-who
AJ originally posted that he thought propane would just singe their fur and et 'em P.O.'ed, not true. it is the concussive force that ceases their existence. the military takes advantage of this in several weapons only on a much larger scale, Check out the "fuel-air bomb"; its a bomb tht sprays a trail of [something like gasoline] as it falls to the ground, its then ignited. The fuel burns and it goes 'BOOM', but its not the flames that kills them, rather the concussive force generated by the rapid burning of fuel (even in conventional bombs its tyically the concussive force that kills ya, or the shrapnel, the fuel-air bomb is just a particullary good example)

The concussive force is what rips the air out of yer lungs, knocks you on your ass, and throws shrapnel everywhere. If you've ever been around a big enough explosion you know the feeling (albeit a very mild version, if your still here), that little punch to the chest immediately following the 'BOOM'; thats what concussive force feels like.

In addition, there are also "bunker-buster" bombs that are/were used in afghanistan/iraq. These bombs operate on the principle that the concussive force genetated by a bomb is amplified withinin an enclosed area, such as a bunker or cave (not so much a building, because the walls just blow off or the building crumbles.....). The bombs have hardened metal noses, they drop em from a plane, they build up a LOT of speed, it impacts the ground and keeps on going right into the cave, the fuse is delayed so it explosdes inside the cave DESVASTATING anything & anyone inside.
The reason I bring it up is because these are the principles in play when propane is used to make an underground explosion. Gophers are 'controlled'.not by the fire&flames, but rather the concussive force that does the job,
Now you've had your daily physics lesson.
<)8rD

party49mn1 year ago
Do you cover your traps with a little dirt once set? Or is the picture above just some dirt that happened to fall well setting the trap?
486dx45 years ago
we used to have a guy from our church come in and pump propane in the holes and light it.
Heh heh, he said Newts! Propane is a blast!
AT (author)  486dx45 years ago
Nice! I have a friend do something similar with black powder and ants. He would cover the ant mound with black powder and the ants would bring it in to their tunnel system. After some amount of time doing this, he could light up one of the mounds and a bunch of them would end up going up as the ants moved the black powder around. As for the propane and pocket gophers, how well did that work? Gophers are smart about how they build their tunnels and they create bedrooms as it were that are protected from flooding and gas build up. Kind of like the trap under your sink. So, to gas them out or even flood them out, you need to push the stuff in with some pressure. In using propane, it could very well do little more to the pocket gopher than singe their fur. It could also burn them badly but not kill them. Then they would be suffering there in their tunnel for days before they die. Or worse yet, not die and live in this burnt state. You also don't know what the results are until more mounds show up. With trapping, you know when you have gotten someone. I have gotten ground squires and moles in my gopher traps along the way. But mainly gophers. I also find Newts in the tunnels from time to time, but not trapped. I thought it would be a fun project to create a tunnel robot that I could drive through the gopher tunnels. It would have a small camera so I could see where I was going. It would use IR light so it wouldn't alert the gopher. There would also be some sort of way to kill the gopher. Maybe a tazer like device or maybe a single shot gun. Or something simple like a pointed spike that could poke them?
ednorris6 years ago
I'm new to this gopher-genocide thing, and appreciate your help. A question though. Your instructions, and most of the instructions I've read, talk about putting the traps in the hole and covering so no light seeps through, because gophers don't like the light. So far, I've had success in putting the traps in the hole entrance and letting a fair amount of light shine through. The gopher comes to plug up the hole and gets caught. Then again, I've set maybe 10 traps, had 3 ignored, had 4 sprung without a gopher, and only caught 3. I'll try your way, but has anyone experimented with the way I was taught?
From my amateur yet successful trapping campaign, I have found that allowing cool fresh air to flow into their realm is really all it takes to get their attention. The tunnels wind around, up, down, this way and that and yes, have 'sink trap-like' features and 'rooms' that a beam of light most likely won't penetrate. When I place cctv cams in the burrows, even with an IR light source one can only see a very short distance into the hole. If ya gotta go with the light thing, maybe locating a lateral tunnel and perforating it with a piece or rebar repeatedly along it's length might get your light a tad deeper into the tunnel? I've found the open ended tunnel works so well for my situation that I have not tried any other method. Closed minded? Maybe, but it works EVERY time I set out to nab a gopher.
AT (author)  ednorris6 years ago
If you got 3 with only 10 traps, you are doing very well! You have an interesting hypothesis about the light. I am almost tempted to try that. BUT! The other reason to cover the traps is so the neighbor cats and dogs don't get in there (as easily) as well as the stray child here and there. ;-) Last year I had a trap disappear. I think I had caught a gopher and a neighbor animal came and took it along with the trap. I hope they barfed it up all over their owners living room carpet. I like the idea of the gopher trying to plug the opening and then getting caught in the trap. It even makes sense. I don't know how much through a gopher puts into that type of thought but what else do they have to do while they are digging and pushing dirt around all day.
ednorris AT6 years ago
Caught another today, using four traps. One other sprung on me. Cats shouldn't be a problem. The mechanism is triggered when the gopher is moving from inside out toward the exit, probably pushing dirt in front of him. If an animal reaches in with a paw from the exit, they'd be pushing the mechanism the wrong way. Even if the triggered it, it would only get caught if its paw reached so far over the mechanism before triggering it that it was actually over the jaws. Kids might be an issue, though. A child might see the stake, pull the string, and, if the string is pulled gently enough (a hard pull will spring the trap) pull out an unspring trap. I still don't know this way is any better; that's why I'm asking. But it's easier for a guy like me who can never figure out where the main tunnel is!
Aw, let the kid pull it out. He'd only do it once.
486dx4 AT5 years ago
this is just a crazy idea but what about putting a light, or maby a few holes in the cover? so it allows light in but keeps stuff out?
AT (author)  486dx45 years ago
It would be something to try. Normally, the pocket gopher is underground in total darkness. I don't know how adding light near the trap would work? It could be that the gopher would come to plug up whole letting in the light or they might plug their tunnel and stay away? In either case, they would be pushing a bunch of dirt with them and that typically causes the trap to get pushed out of the way without being tripped. What I try to do is keep their environment as close to how they left it (other than the trap) so they would be moving through their tunnel system and just walk through a trap and get caught.
ednorris AT6 years ago
Actually, that might be two today. Not sure. Just checked and found another one sprung and dragged down and around a corner into a tunnel. I'm guessing I got a piece of him (for him to drag it like that), but don't know.
rod howard1 year ago
(removed by author or community request)
I like to blow 'em up ... or down ... or sideways. Safety first, always! Ensure you KNOW what's underground in the area i.e.; natural gas lines, electrical wiring, plumbing, property lines etc. If any of those items are present, quit this project and go to another instruct able I then empty a camp lantern sized can of propane gas into their burrows via one mound. (kick dirt away, find the direction clear it out). Wait a few minutes for the gas to settle in. I like yell out 'Fire in the hole' to no one in particular and then light the sumbitch off. Make no mistake, this is the dangerously tricky part, or so I have been told. The gas lays low and follows the burrows and ignites with a formidable "WHUMP!" The ground may lift a little not so unlike Nuke test sites in Nev. in the 60's and 70's. No shock wave or vaporization occurs but I never see another pocket gopher for several months. If ya live in the city don't do this. If you're out in the sticks, you stand a much better chance of disturbing only the offending rodents.
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pingkam4 years ago
why must killing the living being? I think even a gopher have equal right to enjoy their lives as we do. If you feel being bothered by that animal, just think that you also bothered them in their world, because we live in the same space and the same sky with them. Just live peace together with all living being. And stop the killing. May the peace be with you always.
Yeah, but we're at the top of the food chain. If they were a few more notches up and had opposable thumbs and forefingers, we'd be dodging their traps. Besides, they are lesser beings.
AT (author)  pingkam4 years ago
Killing is the way of nature. All animals kill something to survive. Many kill for reasons we don't even know. Some kill just to procreate. Some kill to control population. Some kill to maintain domanance and insure that the strongest geans are passed on. I don't kill the gophers for enjoyment. I kill them to protect my family. We try to grow some of our own food. We are trying to return much of our land to the way it was before it had been turned into farm land. It should be a wooded forest, not an open plane. Pocket gophers belong in the open, not in the woods. I also teach my son that killing is not for fun and that it isn't enjoyable.
bmccool11 year ago
Great article! I'd like to add three tips:

1. After I set my traps, I leave a huge rock or piece of wood just barely covering the hole. I leave enough room for fresh air to get through the tunnel entrance as gophers seem to hate this and work to plug that air leak sooner rather than later. I have a friend that uses an old laundry basket to provide shade and allow air in.

2. I discovered this last year when I had a major encroachment of mounds towards my vegetable garden. I was running the rototiller in the garden and the vibrations seemed to agitate the gophers. I noticed one gopher in broad daylight poking his head out of the mound to see what was going on. I left the tiller idling (big 6 h.p. single cylinder does a lot of thumping), got my pellet gun and nailed him and another one inside of 10 minutes. My dog managed to get two others! Four gophers in less than an hour made for a happy day!

3. Your local wildlife center might be able to make use of the gophers you trap to feed raptors they are rehabilitating. I freeze the gophers I catch and take them to the local raptor center.
AT (author)  bmccool11 year ago
Thank you for the input. I like #3. It always seemed like a waste to put these guys back down in their own home. We have a great raptor center the University of Minnesota. I am not down that way very often but if they don't mind frozen bodies...

johnlvs2run4 years ago
Thanks for posting the steps to catching a gopher. 

I don't quite understand the minimal digging approach.  Could you elaborate about this?  There is a gopher here that is really tough to catch, as he keeps tossing dirt past the traps.  I am going to try covering the traps and holes completely.

Another thing is there are are lots of mounds but it is hard to find the main tunnel.
The lateral tunnels they cruise around in are usually 6-8" down and run parallel to the surface. Clear the dirt from the mound and dig down 6-10" and poke around at the sides of your hole until the tunnel openings appears. I clear out dirt as far back into the tunnel as I can. A wide open tunnel that allows alot of fresh air into the burrow system will be quickly addressed by the gopher and resealed. In my case, just a matter of minutes is all it takes. As AT mentioned, a stick or rebar is a 'must have' tool for locating the lateral tunnel direction. Just poke it into the ground and when you feel it 'give' a little, you have found that which you seek ... the tunnel.
I always begin with a 'minimal digging' mind set but that goes out the window shortly after I start. They dig so you gotta dig to find 'em.
AT (author)  johnlvs2run4 years ago
When you dig down where the mound is located, hopefully you will find a tunnel.  I use stick or other something else long to poke into the tunnel.  Usually I find it branches.  You need to dig to that point and put two traps in place; one in each direction.  If the tunnel goes more than a foot or so without branching, go ahead and put your trap in place and check the walls of your hole for more tunnels.

If your gopher is putting dirt past your trap, that means he is pushing dirt down the tunnel and over your trap.  I have had that happen several times as well.  Keep at it and check the traps twice a day if you can.

I had a gopher last year that I never did catch after months of trying.  I hope not to find any more activity in that area this year.  Fingers are crossed.


johnlvs2run AT4 years ago
Thanks much for your feedback and encouragement.  I did catch 4 gophers in 4 days, but the last one or two are elusive. 

The last few mornings I've dug deep and wide around the holes but did not find any tunnels, just hard clay in every direction.  Apparently it is closing off the tunnels completely every time it makes a new hole.  Best regards.
rod howard1 year ago
Another method I've employed: set up a cctv video camera in the little varmint's hole with a feed going to the 'big screen ' in the living room. After I've located the route the tunnel takes, I poke those little flags used by landscapers to id sprinkler layouts down into the passage and attach a small bell to it topside. Careful to make sure the end of the wire is suspended through ceiling of the tunnel and not into the floor of the tunnel. This makes it easier for Mr. P. Gopher to scurry past it, cluelessly trip it on his way to his big TV debut. I place a 'Black Ho' trap or a wire trap just past the camera and leave the hole open. Apparently they do not like fresh air entering their domain and can't get to the hole fast enough to plug the 'leak'. When the bells start jing jing jingling, I turn on the tube, sit back and watch the events unfold before my eyes. What is amazing is, that little guy looks EXACTLY like the varmint-kong in Caddy Shack. Little ears poking up behind his (my) pile of dirt with fluffy cheeks and whiskers and 2 beady black ojos. Cute but destructive.
I started out with a no kill policy but, after thousands of dollars in damages to property and countless broken legs and ankles to livestock, I had to rethink my approach to dealing with pocket gophers. Bill Murray understands I'm sure.
tunnelfill2 years ago
Great article. Being a professional gopher trapper I see a lot advice that ranges from good to bad. This article should help those with gophers. You may also try a product called Tunnel Fill www.tunnelfill.com. You can use to flush gophers out, or as this article shows, trap the gophers and then fill in the tunnels with Tunnel Fill to slow down future gophers. Good luck and happy hunting.
AT (author)  tunnelfill2 years ago
Thank you. I will keep that in mind. :-)
cropdoctor2 years ago
I have a very good solution for you. Use an expandable product to fill up those gopher holes and make the gopher move on. We like Gopher Goo, a starch based bio-degradable gel that fills up the hole and forces them out of it. No hole, no home for them, no more problem!.

Check it out at www.gophergoo.com and feel free to ask for help, they are great and its what they love to do!

Heather Vallier
AKA: The Crop Doctor
www.cropdoctor.net
Thanks for this guide. It's helped. I'm using a "Black hole" trap. (something akin to a box trap) And up to about 5 kills a week. I was going to suggest for the live catch trap you might consider looking at the design of the black hole and see if it can be modified. Thanks again!
ReCreate5 years ago
If all Fails,Put C4 In there ;) XD
catty shack lol good movie
What?
the movie catty shack. they did that in the movie catty shack
it's "CADDY" as in golf caddy. WTF is a catty shack
oh
AT (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
Hey there Mr. Gopher. Don't mind the wires, doctors orders....
ReCreate AT5 years ago
loli get it now XD
Oldetryke2 years ago
In some catalogue, I saw a kind of battery-powered earth bumper that is supposed to scare the gophers away. A few days ago, someone told me that she has gophers in her backyard; now if I could only remember who it was...
Any comments or advice?
AT (author)  Oldetryke2 years ago
I have seen those as well. I don't know hoe well they work but they are simple. They are stakes that you drive into the ground. They emit a noise the the ground critters don't like so they will and they will tend to move away from it. It can take a couple of weeks to annoy them enough to move.

You could set up an invisible barrier in your yard with these things. Then they become your neighbor's problem.
punkhead583 years ago
Heh, wire traps; what a simpleton. All you need are a few M14 land mines....works every time.
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