NDSU Extension - Burleigh County

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Gophers and Voles and Moles Oh My!

Spring brings out the best of colors once trees start growing out their leaves, the crocuses start to bloom, grass starts getting green, but it also brings moles, voles and gophers.Pocket Gopher

Although they may seem like fuzzy cute little animals, the critters invading your yard and garden can become quite the nuisance. Landowners need to keep an eye out when these unwanted “tenants” decide to move in, creating mounds, tunnels or any other types of ground disturbances. Although they all improve the soil by aerating it and mixing nutrients, the aftermath creates a bigger issue with mowing and aesthetics of your yard.

Poison, setting traps and many other methods will work but using the right tool for the unwanted animal is key. That’s why proper identification of the pest is priority number 1. These animals are smart to stay in their holes at all times or only venture out for very short periods, usually at night to avoid predators. Here are some distinctive differences to tell the difference between the 3.

Voles are the ones that will leave the trails in the lawn and the mouse-size voles leave a lot of small holes and connecting runways through the damaged grass they’ve been dining on. One way to control voles is with mousetraps, which can be set at the entrance to their tunnels and clearing any debris they can use to hide from predators.

Moles are usually 4-6 ½ inches long and weigh from 3-5 ounces.  Moles will have mounds that will be almost completely circular in a mounded shape with the hole entrance in the middle. Moles, which are rarely if ever seen, prefer non-plant food. Control can range from using traps, gas and moleworms. 

Pocket gophers are usually from 10- 12 inches long and weigh about a pound. They will always have their incisors exposed and have a cheek pouch. They create a mound that is more irregular or crescent shaped and the hole location will be towards one end with a plug covering the opening. Gophers favor bulbs and roots. Gophers can be controlled using poison grains and pellets, gas and traps.

To establish where to set traps, find an active tunnel by probing about six inches down near a fresh mound. You can also push down on mounds to close them and wait to see where a fresh one appears. Set traps in a tunnel near a fresh mound.

Whatever process you use to control the unwanted critters, make sure you abide by all the label and product instructions. The safety of not only yourself and others around the application area should be considered to make sure harm does not come to them. Good luck with your eviction process.

For more information, contact:

Tyler Kralicek, Ag and Natural Resources Agent

Burleigh County Extension Services (701) 221-6865

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