Gopher Facts & Identification

The gopher’s underground tunnel system is about 18 inches below ground; nesting burrows can be up to 6 feet below ground.

Gophers mate 1-2 times a year and have a litter size of 3-4 young per generation.

Gophers are plant feeders that eat grasses, very small, young trees, shrubs, plant bulbs, roots, seeds and vegetables such as peas, carrots onions and potatoes.

A gopher’s lips close behind their front teeth so that they don't swallow dirt when they're digging.

They are active year-round, but most likely to tunnel in the spring and fall when the soil moisture content is best for digging.

The gopher’s tunnel complex consists of mounds, lateral feeding tunnels and a main tunnel. The mound is a semicircular shaped pile of dirt that results when excess soil from tunnel construction is moved to the ground surface.

Gophers do not drink water, instead they obtain moisture from the plants they eat.

Gophers use their cheek pouches to store food before taking it to their burrows, where they stockpile large amounts of food. An active, healthy gopher will consume about 60% of its bodyweight each day.

Gophers are active both day and night.



The gopher’s body parts help a great deal for identification. Gophers have large, clawed paws for digging, small ears and eyes, a short, sparsely haired tail, a relatively flat head, are brownish to blackish in color and range in size from 4-18 inches. Gophers have large front teeth (incisors) that are used for chewing. Incisor size aids in the identification of the different gopher species.


As mentioned above, gophers are very capable burrowers that construct a tunnel complex consisting of mounds, lateral tunnels and a main tunnel. The appearance of mounds - the crescent shaped piles of excavated dirt - is a very important identification characteristic. Mounds often appear in clusters. Lateral tunnels serve as feeding tunnels the gopher constructs to reach sources of food.

Unexplained plant decline also helps to identify gopher activity. Rarely do gophers leave their burrows; however, they will leave the burrow and feed on surface vegetation that is growing within 1-2 feet of the burrow entrance. This feeding behavior, often occurring in gardens, is yet another good way to identify damage from gophers.


One of the reasons that gopher control is so challenging is their damage usually occurs belowground so gopher damage to plants often goes undetected. In order to make gopher control somewhat less complicated, be sure to take immediate control actions as soon as you see any sign of gopher activity.

Successful gopher control almost always involves more than one method of control. While there are many DIY control methods available, the use of a professional animal control specialist is normally best in the long run.

The basics of gopher control include using traps, toxic chemicals and repellents made for gopher control. Be very careful using these tactics if children or pets are around. Also, at times the use of a product called gopher wire placed underground and designed to prevent gophers from moving to the ground surface may be helpful.