Pocket gophers, while small in size, can cause significant damage to residential and commercial properties. Understanding their physical characteristics, behavior, and effective prevention methods is crucial for homeowners and property managers.
This fall season is beginning with a bang as far as gophers go. Here in Phoenix, we are seeing populations explode. Since it was such a hot and dry summer, it’s only reasonable to believe that gophers are in search of food and water supplies – making irrigation systems the # 1 target of gophers as far as destruction goes. What’s more, all the holes and pushed-up soil left by pocket gophers create a blight in the landscaping. But, unfortunately, that’s not all. So, let’s take a closer look at these pests and spell out what you need to know.
A Brief Bit About Pocket Gophers
Pocket gophers are rodents that are native to North and Central America. They are known for their extensive tunneling systems, which can cause damage to lawns, gardens, and other properties. Pocket gophers can also be a nuisance to homeowners and businesses, as they can sometimes enter homes and other buildings.
Pocket Gopher Characteristics
Pocket gophers (family Geomyidae) are burrowing rodents characterized by their fur-lined cheek pouches, which they use for storing food. They have stout bodies, small eyes, and powerful front legs equipped with sharp claws for digging. Their fur can vary in color, ranging from brown to almost black, allowing them to blend well with the soil they inhabit.
Getting a little more specific, pocket gophers are typically 6 to 12 inches long, with a short tail and stout body. They have large front teeth and claws, which they use for digging. Again, pocket gophers also have fur-lined cheek pouches, which they use to store food while they are tunneling.
What Attracts Pocket Gophers to Residential and Commercial Properties in Phoenix?
Unsurprisingly, pocket gophers are attracted to properties primarily due to the availability of food and suitable burrowing grounds. Gardens, lawns, and agricultural fields rich in vegetation and root systems are particularly attractive to these pests. Additionally, moist soil and warm climates provide an ideal environment for their burrowing activities.
These pests are typically attracted to properties that have a good food supply and a suitable habitat for their burrows. Food sources can include lawns, gardens, and orchards. Pocket gophers also prefer to live in areas with well-drained soil and a good supply of moisture (something homeowners who take a lot of pride in their landscape unwittingly offer).
How Do Pocket Gophers Enter Homes?
Pocket gophers usually enter properties through their complex tunnel systems. Once in place, they can easily create extensive networks of burrows beneath lawns and gardens, often unseen from the surface. From these tunnels, they can reach the root systems of plants and shrubs, which serve as their primary food source.
Pocket gophers can also enter homes through a variety of openings, including cracks in the foundation, holes around pipes, and vents. They can likewise dig their way into homes from the outside – which means they aren’t always outside.
How Fast Do Pocket Gophers Multiply?
Pocket gophers can reproduce quickly. Females can give birth to up to six litters per year, with each litter containing up to seven pups. This means that a single pair of pocket gophers can produce dozens of offspring in a single year. They breed multiple times a year, leading to rapid population growth if left unchecked. So, just one pair can turn into a significant infestation within a short period.
Types of Damage Pocket Gophers Can Cause to Properties in Arizona
Pocket gophers cause substantial damage to properties. Their burrowing activities can uproot plants, damage irrigation systems, and compromise the structural integrity of lawns and gardens by eating roots and tubers. They can also damage trees and shrubs by gnawing on their bark and roots. Additionally, their feeding habits can destroy the entire root systems of plants, leading to wilting and eventually plant death.
Do Pocket Gophers Pose a Health Risk to Humans and Pets?
The good news is that pocket gophers do not pose a direct health risk to humans and pets. However, this doesn’t mean they do not pose a threat because they can carry diseases that can be harmful to people and animals, such as tularemia and plague.
Meanwhile, their burrows can create hazardous conditions. Human injuries may occur if individuals step into concealed burrow entrances, leading to sprains or fractures. Additionally, these burrows can damage agricultural equipment, posing financial risks to farmers and property owners.
Signs of Pocket Gophers
There are a few signs that can indicate that you have a pocket gopher problem on your property. These signs include:
- Mounded soil. One of the most visible signs of pocket gopher presence is the characteristic crescent-shaped mounds of soil they push to the surface while digging their burrows.
- Wilting plants. Plants and shrubs with damaged root systems may show signs of wilting or yellowing due to a lack of nutrients and water. Gnawed on bark and roots of trees and shrubs.
- Exposed roots. Gophers often leave plants with exposed roots as they feed on the root systems underground.
In addition, pocket gophers leave behind damaged irrigation systems and other structures, which are generally clearly visible.
How to Prevent Pocket Gophers from Becoming a Problem
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to prevent pocket gophers from becoming a problem on your property:
- Regular maintenance. Regularly mow lawns and trim vegetation to reduce the attractiveness of the property to gophers.
- Physical barriers. Install wire mesh or hardware cloth around vulnerable plants to prevent gophers from accessing their root systems.
- Irrigation management. Avoid overwatering, as moist soil attracts gophers. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to minimize surface moisture.
Plus, it’s a good idea to eliminate food sources by keeping your lawn and garden well-maintained. Moreover, seal up any cracks or holes in the foundation of your home, and install screens on vents.
How to Get Rid of Pocket Gophers
If you have a pocket gopher problem, there are a few things that you can do to get rid of them. These options include:
- Trapping. Trapping is one of the most effective ways to get rid of pocket gophers. There are a variety of traps available, so you can choose the one that is best suited for your needs.
- Poisoning. Poisoning is another option for getting rid of pocket gophers. However, it is important to note that poisoning can be dangerous to other animals, so it is important to follow the instructions carefully.
- Fumigation. Fumigation is a more expensive option, but it can be effective for getting rid of large populations of pocket gophers.
If you are having trouble getting rid of pocket gophers on your own, you may want to contact a professional pest control company like Invader. Our experienced technicians can determine the source of the problem, its possible scope, and provide you with solutions.