How We Vanquished Our Pocket Gophers

After "Charlie" moved in, these northern California homesteaders never had a problem with pocket gophers again.

| May/June 1983

  • pocket gophers - gopher snake on ground
    Pocket gophers disappeared once "Charlie" was on the job.
    Photo by Fotolia/Kasi Lodrigue

  • pocket gophers - gopher snake on ground

We northern Californians have to contend with slews of gardening problems, some which are native to this area and others which are common to homesteaders everywhere. However, over the course of seven years of farming, my husband and I have learned, through trial and error (not to mention a lot of good luck), how to overcome most of the predicaments that originally troubled us.

For instance, we constructed a greenhouse equipped with 55-gallon drums of water to temper the cold nights. And after first trying movable sprinklers and then experimenting with underground watering setups, we determined that a soaker system is the most efficient method of keeping our thirsty plants satisfied. We also noticed that while local farmers seem to be plagued with deer, these foragers haven't presented much of a problem to us — probably because they can drift onto our land for an occasional drink from our horse's watering trough and a lick from her mineral block. After this satisfying "snack" they march off single file to dine on our neighbor's beans!

Trouble in Paradise

But these little victories over gardening problems and predators appeared minimal in comparison to our constant battle with the army of pocket gophers that used to descend upon our crops every growing season. For years, it seemed nothing would stand in the way of these dirt-digging marauders!

We tried installing a homemade whirligig (fashioned from a plastic bleach bottle filled with gravel and stuck on a pole in the garden in such a way that it moves when the wind blows), hoping that the rattling of its pebbles would be loud enough to cause the varmints to flee. But it seems California gophers are hardened to any sort of noise — including four-letter "accolades" hurled at them from a distance!

Then there are the other, less humane, ways of getting rid of gophers such as gas and poison. We both felt that these methods could be too hazardous to the environment.

Hope in Sight

We'd almost resigned ourselves to the fact that we were simply going to have to put up with sharing the wealth of our land with our "fuzzy friends," when just this past year we suddenly began to notice that none of them had appeared anywhere on our lawn or in our garden. Still, we figured that since June had been unseasonably cold and rainy, this rare phenomenon could be attributed to foul weather and the little thieves would likely soon be back in full force to torment us once again.

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