Friday, April 3, 2009

Humane Gopher Control

This is a picture of Julia trying to repair the damage to our yard caused by a combination of gophers and our dogs while Trudy looks on. The gophers dig tunnels and the dogs dig out the tunnels in pursuit of the gophers which create trenches (they do sometimes catch one).

In a variation of the cheap, good or fast axiom - choose 2 of the 3, we have found a similar axiom regarding gophers, dogs and plants. We are able to defend the plants against the gophers or the dogs but not the combination of dog and gopher... until now.

At my recent visit to the Solano Community Gardens, when I nearly missed the whole Backward Beekeepers meeting, I got some great advise from fellow beekeeper Sebastian, the garden's manager. I asked if he had a gopher problem and he showed me this little blue stake that keeps them at bay up to 15 feet from where ever you put it (that's a 30 foot diameter safe zone).

Here is a close up - the brand name is Exhart. It takes a couple of D batteries and makes a barely audible noise to humans but to gophers won't go near it. A friend told me they go for $17 at the big box DIY store or here: Exhart MoleMover. I may get ours there or price them at the local hardware if they sell them.

In the most thoroughly infested area of the garden, Sebastian showed me how the gophers tunneled right up to the edge of that imaginary perimeter but would not go the extra foot or two to get a tasty young plant growing there.

Our yard is too big to cover completely with gopher stakes but we can use these to protect a few key areas, like our established native garden, where we really don't want the gophers. If the gophers don't tunnel, the dogs won't dig - at least that's the theory.


  1. Please report back on how this works! I wish my cats were more skilled at eliminating these pests. I used to feel bad for them when the cats got them, but I lost all sympathy when a stunned one woke up and bit me. After that I hired our local gopher getter who kills them for 10 bucks a pop with traps and brings (probably sells) the dead ones to the local raptor center. Which I am really OK with. But I would prefer that they not ever enter a couple of our garden areas at all.

  2. Yeah I know how you feel - I am not a fan of the pocket gopher at all and I haven't been bitten. I tried trapping too but now we are going for more of a defensive approach.

    I will let you know how our stakes work but from what I saw at the garden, they work really well. the ground near the bed with the young plants (corn, I think) looked like a gopher paradise with mounds and holes everywhere, but they just stopped 15 fee from the stake.

    Two things I am not thrilled about are that the product is plastic (but what isn't these days) and that it uses batteries. I have heard that the stakes only last a year too which isn't great news - could get expensive and who wants to throw away a $17 dollar chunk of plastic every year?

  3. I just googled "humane gopher abatement" and, wouldn't you know it, Ramshackle came up top of the list! I should have known to go directly to the source. A couple of weeks ago Jeremy found some holes on our top patio between the cement pavers, but I wouldn't believe that they were from a gopher. Sure enough, the next week there were clear tunnels and mounds in one of the vegetable terraces. Boo. Long story short, we are wondering what kind of success you ended up having with these Exhart stakes? Is that the way we should go? The Huntington folks have told me to flood them out with a hose and smack them with a shovel when they pop out...not sure I'm up for that!

  4. Hi Rachel, I was thinking about you and Jeremy. It is high time we had you over for some food, drink and conversation. First, congratulations on avoiding the gophers for so long in this neighborhood. They have been a bonafide nuisance in our yard since we moved in. I suspect they think the same of us. I have seen with my own eyes a foot-wide Siskiyou blue fescue grass pulled underground in one fell swoop by a gopher. I have very little empathy for my gopher neighbors.

    The Exhart stakes have worked for us. I can tell when a battery has worn out (we have some on battery & some solar) because there is a proliferation of gopher mounds in the area. I recommend the stakes, then again, I'm not opposed to flooding them out and smacking them with a shovel, although I confess to being a bit squeamish about channeling Dirty Harry on the gophers. Then again when I see them destroying my garden, I resolve to kill them with my bare hands, eat them & make a vest with their tiny pelts. I have yet to do I'll stick with the Exhart stakes until then.

  5. I have tried two types of stakes now, one regular buzzing type (solar) and one with "chatter technology" as they say. The chatter one worked great for a month or two, and then I noticed the perimeter of mounds getting smaller, and finally, mounds practically on top of the stake. The solar stake is newer, and I'm not seeing it be effective at all.

    I've read elsewhere that gophers get used to the sounds these stakes emit. Maybe your gophers will not, but ours seem like the commando type.

  6. We bought long stakes years ago at Costco and did not find them to be effective for our yard. I hate to kill the gophers, but they are getting close to the roses and trees and even though we have planted everything in cages the gopher population is huge now.


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