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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I tell if I have a vole, ground squirrel or some other pest?

A: The key to identifying a ground squirrel is an exposed, open tunnel with discarded dirt surrounding 

the entrance of the tunnel. Generally, squirrels will burrow in the base of trees. You can see directly 

into a ground squirrel burrow, where as moles and gophers plug up their tunnels. You can read more about 

ground squirrels at the University of California Website. 

If you see small, open holes in your lawn or garden, but there are no mounds or dirt around them, these 

are probably entrance holes for Meadow Voles or field mice. You will also see polished areas around the 

openings of the tunnels and beaten down pathways through the grass. Voles can create damage to trees, 

shrubs, bulbs and perennials by eating the roots and bark from the base. Voles take over abandoned mole 

and gopher tunnels and also eat roots, bulbs and tubers along the way. Voles can be mistaken for a gopher 

because a full grown vole will be about 3” long. Their fur can be dark brown and resembles a mature gopher, 

but unlike gophers, voles have mouse-like ears. Click on the link for an example of abandoned gopher system 

that voles have taken over. Vole holes. Our traps work only on moles and gophers, so it is important to 

identify the pest creating damage to your property before calling me out to your property. 

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Q: How do I know if I have a mole?

A: If you have a mole, you will see mounds of dirt and/or surface tunnels. You may not see both. The mounds 

are symmetrical and look like a volcano. They can vary in size, but the volcano shape is characteristic of 

a mole. Moles are strictly carnivores, feeding on earthworms, grubs, insects and larvae. As a mole searches 

for food, he creates an extensive network of surface feeding tunnels, many of which are used only once. 

The surface tunnels look like the veins on the back of your hand. Surface feeding tunnels will usually be 

found along edges of concrete, bender boards, and walkways. Surface tunnels may also pop up in the middle 

of your lawn that looks as if a snake has moved through the soil. Click on the link to see examples of 

mole mounds and surface tunnels. 

Generally, you will find mole mounds in lawns and under emitters in your garden. Lawns are moist fertile 

areas where the conditions usually support a plentiful supply of live food. Moles are far more difficult 

to catch than gophers. Moles rarely go back to the same surface tunnel once they have eaten the insects. 

They can dig to your neighbor’s property overnight and not return to your property to feed for a month or 

more. Moles must be trapped in their burrow which are found under a mound. The mounds must be fresh or it 

is a waste of time setting a trap there.

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Q: How do I know if I have a gopher? 

A: A gopher does not dig surface feeding tunnels like a mole.   If you look straight down on a gopher mound, 

you will see a distinct crescent shape with a plug of dirt at the top of the crescent. You should also see 

other mounds close by. If you don’t see fresh mounds, look for freshly plugged holes 2-4”in diameter. Click 

on this link to see examples of gopher mounds and feed holes. 

Gophers are strictly vegetarians, feeding on roots and tubers under the ground and he will just about any plant 

above the ground. Dead and/or wilted plants are an indication of a gopher. An adult male gopher will establish 

a territory and will fight to protect that territory. A 3-5 year old adult male gopher can control up to 2,000 

square feet. With close observation, you can identify one gopher system by following the fresh mounds. 

It is important to know that since moles are smaller than gophers, both animals can travel in the same tunnel 

system. You may have both gophers and moles, so look for signs of both animals. Since both moles and gophers 

control large areas, the activity must be fresh. Both moles and gophers seal off unused tunnels. It is a waste 

of time to set a trap in a mole mound or a gopher mound or feed hole that it old. 

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Q: How can I tell if the mound or feed hole is fresh?

A: The best time to look for fresh activity is early morning. The dirt will be dark and fluffy because the 

sun has not bleached the soil. The mounds will be free of animal footprints, and leaves that the wind may 

have blown. Sprinklers and rain will not have pounded down the dirt. Fresh Gopher feed holes will also have 

dark, fluffy dirt. Fresh activity indicates that the mole or gopher is close by underground. Both gophers 

and moles plug their holes so that his scent does not get out and to keep predators such as snakes, weasels, 

foxes, cats and dogs from getting inside. I do not use bait of any kind. The gopher comes to plug his tunnel 

and triggers the trap. If you open a very fresh gopher hole and watch for a few minutes, a gopher will sense 

a draft and come to the opening to investigate. You will see the gopher plug up the opening again if you wait 

long enough. When this occurs, it is the best opportunity to set a trap. Unfortunately, moles are not so 

cooperative when you open their holes. Moles may not return for a day or two. 

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Q: Once mole traps are in the ground, how long will it take to catch one?

A: The answer depends on several variables. I have caught a mole on the same day. However, it may take longer 

if the mole is inactive or the tunnel is not being used. I always like to set two traps on a mole. I set each 

trap an opposite direction. I may have to reset traps and find other locations, but I expect to catch the mole 

within 3-5 days. If you are choosing to set the traps yourself, and do not understand mole habits, the process 

may take longer. You may not be placing the trap correctly, or the tunnel may fork close to the opening and 

the mole will use dirt to backfill your trap. This happens to me on occasion, and when it does, I pull the 

trap, dig out until I can see two tunnels and set two traps. I like to set 2 traps on a mole. 

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Q: How long should it take to catch a gopher once the trap is in the ground?

A: Gophers are much easier to trap than moles. I have opened a fresh tunnel, set a trap and caught the gopher 

with the customer standing beside me. When this happens, the customer gets the impression that trapping is 

easy. I attribute it to luck, not skill. Seriously, my biggest catch in one day was    gophers. Please click 

on the link one day’s catch in a city park. When I trap on private land, I leave them in the ground two days. 

I return the next day and reset any traps that were sprung or backfilled and look for new activity to set more 


If I am trapping on a large scale, I start in one area, leave them in the ground 1 or 2 nights, depending upon 

the level of activity and work my way across, continually rotating the traps until the entire property has been


You have the advantage of leaving the traps in the ground even longer if you learn to trap. 

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Q: If I catch the mole or gopher, will another be moving in?

A: Yes. Once the tunnels are established, there is a good chance that another will move in. No matter what 

method you use, there is no permanent fix to the problem, especially if your property adjoins open land or 

parks. The female of both moles and gophers will evict the pups from the nest and main tunnels as soon as 

she is done nursing. This forces the pups to travel overland in search of their own territory. As an 

experienced mole and gopher trapper, I recommend a trapping maintenance program. I trap routinely returning 

to the same customer once, twice, sometimes three times a year. The alternative is to let me teach you how 

to trap and give you the equipment you need to maintain your property.


Trapping is a lot like fishing. It is possible to catch a fish by putting a worm on a hook and hoping a fish 

finds it, but if you know exactly where to cast your line, you will have much better results. There are many 

tunnels that the gopher or mole doesn’t use regularly. It is a waste of time to set traps in tunnels where 

they do not visit. While gophers are much more predictable and easier to catch, moles may require different 

methods of locating good tunnels, but I can teach you how to trap both. 


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Q: Can the size of the gopher or mole be determined by the size of the mound?

A: No. The size of the mound is determined by whether the soil is easy for gophers or moles to dig through. 


It is more important to pay attention to the diameter of a gopher tunnel. Generally, the large gophers dig 

larger tunnels. If I find a small tunnel close to an obviously larger tunnel, I suspect there might be two 

gophers living in two separate systems. However, it is possible for a young gopher to move into an abandoned 

tunnel system from a large adult male. When that happens, it takes a little more investigation, but I catch 

him eventually. 

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Q: How often and when do moles and gophers breed?

A: Gophers will have 1 or 2 broods a year delivering 5 or 6 pups, but if survival conditions are good and the 

local gopher population is down, broods are larger. On uncultivated and non-irrigated areas there is a limited 

breeding season, usually beginning sometime after the beginning of the spring rains, when food becomes available 

in quantity. In irrigated regions, especially in vineyards and alfalfa fields where food is always available, 

breeding occurs throughout the year. Potentially, a female may bear up to 4 litters per year and as high as 

13 pups per litter. 


Moles breed once a year. Mating season usually runs from February to April. The broods run 2-6 pups. 


Both gophers and moles will expel their young after only a few months of lactating. The female forces her pups 

to strike out on their own. The pups will often travel in loose soil or even above ground in the dangerous search

of their own territory. During late spring and early summer, it is a very common for customer’s to tell me stories 

of their cats bringing baby moles and gophers into the house. 

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Q: Do moles and gophers live with mates?

A: Gophers are notoriously solitary animals, with one exception, during mating season. A male gopher will go 

in search of a receptive female tunneling through dirt and rocks, fighting other males to reach her. After 

mating has occurred, he closes off his tunnel and resumes a solitary life while she raises the young. 


Generally, moles are territorial and live alone too. However, in my experience, males can share extensive 

runways with other males without confrontation. Especially during mating season, experience has taught me that 

a male and female live in the same system. I try to put another trap back in the tunnel for a day or two after 

I trap a mole. If there is not activity after a day or two, I assume there was just one mole.

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Q: How can I tell how many gophers and/or moles I have on my property?

A: Most gopher and mole problems are created by one or two animals doing a lot of damage. I suggest that you 

take a shovel and clear away the mounds. Once the mounds are leveled, you can determine how many areas are 

active at the same time by watching for new mounds that are created. If you have different areas of fresh 

activity in one night, there is a possibility you have more than one pest. If you have only one area active 

at a time, you may have only one pest. There is no rock solid way of determining exactly how many animals 

there are until the pest is trapped and there is no more activity. However, after I’ve caught a gopher or 

mole in a tunnel, I reset the trap again and leave it in the tunnel for a day or two hoping to coax a mate 

or pups to the trap. If there is not activity, I know there was only one gopher or mole in that system.

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Q: What if I decide not to get rid of the gophers?

A: Gophers has been known to chew through irrigation lines and utility cables as well as undermine foundations, 

septic systems and swimming pools. The plant damage they may cause can include stem girdling, clipping vines 

and shrubs at the surface, root pruning, and even root exposure. There also is the danger the gopher (and mole) 

may smother some plant life when piling soil over it when creating its mound. Soil brought to the surface by 

the pocket gopher has a greater chance of erosion by rainwater. Rainwater can enter a tunneling system and 

create a surge of water as it finds an exit that creates serious erosion if on a hillside. Gophers that live 

in canal and ditch banks can ruin the integrity of the banks and may cause complete failure of the retention 

system resulting in great disaster. Gophers (and moles) digging under driveways and sidewalks create tunnels 

that easily collapse under minimal weight creating cracks.  In parks, golf courses, and schools, gopher damage 

becomes a liability issue if someone is injured stepping into a hole. Horses and cattle step into these holes 

and open tunnels and they can be injured as well. 

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Q: Does erecting a Barn Owl box really help to rid an area of gophers?

A: Yes and maybe.  I definitely encourage you to try owl boxes, but if you spot fresh gopher activity and don’t 

take action immediately, you are asking for trouble. The most important factor installing these boxes is placement. 

The process has several stages and requires attention and commitment. The boxes must be cleaned regularly. The 

Hungry Owl is a good place to start for information. 


Fortunately, barn owls are non-territorial, so the number of owls that can be attracted to your property is 

limited only by the availability of nesting sites and available prey. Barn owls also have huge appetites. A 

family of barn owls can eat over 3,000 rodents in a four-month breeding cycle. 


Unfortunately, although barn owls prey on gophers, they have a habit of hunting over large areas, often far 

from their nesting boxes, and they tend to hunt areas where the hunting is easy pickings, which can tend to 

make them unreliable for gopher control. 

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Q: Is there anything that will it keep gophers out of my garden and away from my plants?

A: For large, open gardens, I recommend Marigolds, they really do help.  Marigolds don’t have a pleasant odor; 

we can all agree on that but have you ever tried tasting the stem or root? Don't. You'll become extremely sick. 

Marigolds make a difference with the gophers and also with the bugs. You can use tall, giant and even small 

Marigolds.  Mix them up and when they die, take off the dead petals and replant, you've just doubled, if not 

quadrupled your investment. 


using raised boxes with ¼ inch wire mesh under the box. If you invest in wire baskets for individual plants, 

I recommend using stainless steel wire baskets rather than galvanized wire baskets. If your water contains a 

large amount of iron and your soil is acidic, the galvanized baskets erode in 3-4 years and gopher will eat 

thru the wire. The only tried and true method is trapping. It is hard work and time consuming, but you will 

know for sure that your gopher or mole will not come back.  

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