How to effectively trap gophers in your yard (Part 1)

pocket gopher 1

A typical western pocket gopher (above)

After carefully reviewing this article and putting it into practice, you will be able to eliminate gophers from your yard with a minimal investment of time and resources. If you fail, as some of you will, I can always come over and finish the job for a small fee. There are five reasons that you might fail:

(1) You think gophers are cute and will have a hard time killing them

First of all, they are not cute. You’ll need to get over this mental block to be a successful trapper. Most of the time, you will be killing gophers via steel trap, so you will not have to watch them die. However, at times–whether due to poor trap placement or just plain bad luck–you may be required to kill one with your gloved hands and a small trowel.

(2) You are lazy

All the gopher trapping “greats” have been hard workers. You must set and check the traps early in the morning and again at dusk when the gophers are the most active. A hard working gopher trapper can be the difference between clearing a yard in three days and two weeks. Communities of gophers can have intricate tunnel and hole systems that you will have to keep track of. You have to be intensely focused on the task at hand. A lot of people assume that gopher trapping is the same as mouse trapping, which couldn’t be further from the truth. When trapping mice, you can set the trap and leave it in place for days or even weeks and still be successful in the end. If you leave a gopher trap in a tunnel for more than a day or two, the chances are, that tunnel has been long evacuated.

(3) You underestimate the gopher

Gophers may be noxious beasts, but they are smart, and they are tough. Yes, they are virtually blind and shaped like huge bratwursts, but they can be cunning. Gophers can escape from traps, move to different tunnels, and invite their noxious friends into your yard, all the while causing maximum damage. Underestimate these beasts at your own peril.

(4) You mistake gophers for moles

I am a gopher-trapping man, and my curriculum has no relevance to mole trapping. I am not, and will never be, a successful trapper of moles. Please do not mistake me for a mole trapper. This article is specifically directed toward the successful trapping of gophers, and you will be completely unsuccessful if you try to trap moles (or any other noxious beast besides the gopher).

(5) You are careless and think you know best

Maybe you think you know it all. Maybe you are bad at taking advice. I can’t imagine how my gopher trapping career would have ended had I scorned the advice of Uncle Fory, who taught me so well. Heed my advice and gain wisdom. Ignore my advice, and your yard will never be rid of these beasts.

Selecting the Right Trap

The first step in being a successful trapper is procuring the right trap. I heartily endorse the tried-and-true Macabee trap, or “Old Reliable” as it is known colloquially in the gopher community . Zephyr Macabee developed the trap in the late nineteenth century and received a patent in 1900. It has been expertly killing gophers ever since.


You’ll hear some people say that gases, poisons, or even smoke are superior options for killing these beasts. But as I always say — “Where’s the body?” I like to know I have my kill, and when the gopher is lying there dead in the trap, I can be sure my job is done. Also, gases and poisons can be less environmentally friendly and potentially more dangerous for children and pets. “Old Reliable” kills gophers with a quick strike to their spine. Death for most gophers is relatively quick and painless.

The Macabee website gives some excellent instruction on how to set the trap.

Locating the Gopher Puff

You want to set the trap in a fresh gopher puff. You can tell the puff is fresh by looking for fine, dark dirt (as opposed to dry or crusty dirt). If you see a darker puff, you can be pretty sure that it was made within the last few hours. Setting a trap in an old puff will almost never give you the results you want.

You will also have to learn to distinguish mole mounds from gopher puffs. Mole mounds are usually larger and more symmetrical and circular, with the hole in the middle. Gopher mounds are typically smaller and crescent or horseshoe shaped.

gopher v mole mound

In PART 2 of this article, I will talk about proper trap placement, setting the trap, checking traps, collecting your kill, and, of course, how to market yourself as a gopher trapper if you decide to go commercial.

Good Luck! I’d love to hear some success stories, so please feel free to share about your triumphs in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “How to effectively trap gophers in your yard (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: It’s Super Easy To Catch Gophers. Yes, I’m Serious. | A Mélange of Contradictory Tendencies

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