Dealing with Gophers: A Homeowner's Guide in Boise, Idaho


Living in Boise, Idaho, offers a unique blend of urban amenities and natural beauty, but it also presents challenges, especially for homeowners. One such challenge is dealing with gophers, small rodents that can wreak havoc on lawns and gardens. In this guide, we'll explore what gophers are, the signs of their presence, and effective strategies for managing them.

What Are Gophers?

Gophers are small, burrowing rodents belonging to the family Geomyidae. They are commonly found in North and Central America, including regions like Boise, Idaho. Gophers are renowned for their extensive tunneling activities, which can cause significant damage to lawns, gardens, and agricultural fields.

What Do Gophers Look Like?

Gophers are medium-sized rodents with distinctive physical features that are adapted to their subterranean lifestyle. 

  • Size: Gophers are relatively small animals, measuring around six to ten inches (15 to 25 centimeters) in length, depending on the species. They have compact, stocky bodies with short legs.
  • Body: Gophers have stout bodies, covered in dense fur that can vary in color from light brown to dark gray, depending on the species and habitat. Their fur helps to insulate them from the soil and maintain body temperature underground.
  • Head: Gophers have small heads with short, rounded snouts. Their ears are also small and often lie close to the head to prevent soil from entering the ear canals while digging.
  • Eyes: Gophers have tiny, beady eyes that are adapted for their underground lifestyle. While their vision is not highly developed, their eyes are sensitive to light and movement, helping them navigate their tunnels and detect potential threats.
  • Limbs and Claws: Gophers have powerful forelimbs equipped with strong claws, which they use for digging and excavating tunnels underground. Their front feet are larger and more robust than their hind feet, reflecting their primary mode of locomotion and digging.
  • Tail: Gophers have relatively short tails compared to their body length. Their tails are sparsely furred and are not as prominent as those of some other rodent species.

Overall, gophers have a distinctive appearance characterized by their small size, stout bodies, short legs, and powerful digging adaptations. These physical features make them well-suited for life underground, where they spend the majority of their time constructing burrows and foraging for food.

Common Types of Gophers in Boise, ID - Accordion

In Boise, Idaho, and its surrounding areas, several species of gopher may be found. While the specific species present can vary depending on factors such as habitat and ecological conditions, some gopher species commonly encountered in Boise and its vicinity include:

  1. Northern Pocket Gopher (Thomomys talpoides): The northern pocket gopher is widespread across North America, including Idaho. It is commonly found in grasslands, meadows, and agricultural fields. In Boise, it may inhabit open spaces, parks, and suburban areas, where it excavates extensive tunnel systems.
  2. Botta's Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae): Botta's pocket gopher is another species of pocket gopher that may occur in Boise and surrounding regions. It prefers drier habitats such as grasslands, sagebrush steppe, and desert scrub. Botta's pocket gophers are skilled diggers and may be found in rural and semi-urban areas around Boise.
  3. Camas Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bulbivorus): While less common in urban areas, the Camas pocket gopher may inhabit wetland habitats in and around Boise. This species is associated with meadows, marshes, and riparian areas, where it plays a crucial role in shaping wetland ecosystems.
  4. Idaho Pocket Gopher (Thomomys idahoensis): This species is native to the Intermountain West, including parts of Idaho. While it may not be as prevalent in urban areas, it can be found in grasslands, shrublands, and agricultural fields throughout the region.
  5. Mountain Pocket Gopher (Thomomys monticola): Mountain pocket gophers inhabit higher elevation areas, including mountainous regions near Boise. While less commonly encountered in urban settings, they may be found in nearby foothills and forested areas.

These are some of the gopher species that may be found in Boise, Idaho, and its surrounding areas. While gophers play important ecological roles, their burrowing activities can sometimes cause conflicts with human activities, particularly in urban and suburban environments. Understanding the species present and implementing appropriate management strategies can help mitigate these conflicts while preserving local ecosystems.

Signs of Gopher Activity - Accordion

Identifying signs of gopher activity is crucial for effective management and control. Here are some common signs that indicate the presence of gophers:

  • Mounds of Soil: Gophers excavate soil from their tunnels and push it to the surface, creating distinctive mounds of loose dirt in yards, gardens, or fields. These mounds typically have a characteristic crescent or fan-shaped appearance, with the opening of the tunnel located off-center.
  • Raised Ridges or Trails: Gophers create raised ridges or surface trails as they travel between their burrows and foraging areas. These ridges may be visible in lawns, fields, or other grassy areas and can vary in height and width depending on the depth of the underlying tunnels.
  • Freshly Dug Holes: Gophers periodically dig new entrances or ventilation holes to their underground burrows. These holes may appear as freshly disturbed soil with a visible opening leading into the tunnel system. Gopher holes are typically small and circular, ranging from one to three inches in diameter.
  • Damage to Plants: Gophers are herbivores and feed on the roots, bulbs, and underground stems of plants. Signs of gopher damage to vegetation include wilting, yellowing, or stunted growth of plants, particularly in areas where gophers are active. In severe cases, plants may be uprooted or completely consumed.
  • Visible Gopher Activity: In some cases, homeowners may spot gophers above ground, particularly near the entrances to their burrows. Gophers are typically active during the early morning or late afternoon, but they may also be active at night, especially in areas with less human disturbance.
  • Tunnel Entrances: Gopher tunnel entrances are typically located beneath the mounds of soil they create. These entrances may appear as small openings in the ground, often partially concealed by vegetation or debris. Gopher tunnels can extend for several feet below the surface, so entrances may be spaced several feet apart.
  • Subsidence or Sinking Soil: As gophers excavate tunnels underground, the soil above may become destabilized, leading to subsidence or sinking of the ground surface. This can result in uneven or sunken areas in lawns, fields, or other affected areas.

Gopher Yard Damage - Accordion

Gophers can cause significant damage to yards and gardens due to their burrowing and feeding behaviors. Here are some common types of damage caused by gophers in yards:

  1. Mounds and Holes: One of the most noticeable signs of gopher activity in a yard is the presence of mounds of soil and holes. Gophers excavate soil from their tunnels and push it to the surface, creating mounds of loose dirt. These gopher mounds can be unsightly and pose tripping hazards for people and pets.
  2. Tunneling Damage: Gophers create extensive networks of underground tunnels as they search for food and establish their burrows. These tunnels can undermine the stability of the soil, leading to uneven ground surfaces and potential damage to underground utilities, sprinkler systems, and plant roots.
  3. Plant Damage: Gophers are herbivores and feed on a variety of plant material, including roots, bulbs, tubers, and underground stems. Their feeding can cause direct damage to the roots of grass, ornamental plants, shrubs, and trees, leading to wilting, yellowing, and eventual death of vegetation. In severe cases, gophers may completely consume the root systems of plants, resulting in their uprooting.
  4. Watering Issues: Gopher tunnels can disrupt the distribution of water in the soil, leading to uneven watering patterns and water pooling in certain areas of the yard. This can result in waterlogged soil, which is detrimental to plant health and can promote the growth of mold and fungi. 
  5. Aesthetic and Economic Impact: Beyond the physical damage to vegetation and landscaping, gopher damage can have aesthetic and economic consequences for homeowners. Unsightly mounds and damaged plants can detract from the appearance of the yard and reduce property values. Additionally, the cost of repairing and restoring damaged landscaping can be significant.

How To Get Rid of Gophers

There are several methods for getting rid of gophers, ranging from humane deterrents to more lethal control measures. Here are some effective strategies for managing gopher populations:

  1. Trapping: Trapping is one of the most humane and effective methods for controlling gophers. Use live traps specifically designed for gophers and bait them with appealing food such as fresh vegetables or fruits. Place traps near gopher mounds or burrow entrances, and check them regularly. Once captured, relocate gophers to a suitable habitat far from your property.
  2. Fumigation: Fumigating gopher burrows with toxic gases such as aluminum phosphide or carbon monoxide can effectively kill gophers within their burrow systems. Follow all safety precautions and label instructions when using fumigants, and be aware of potential risks to non-target species and the environment.
  3. Baits and Poison Baits: Poison baits containing toxicants such as zinc phosphide or strychnine can be effective for controlling gopher populations. However, these methods pose risks to non-target wildlife, pets, and children if not used properly. Place gopher bait stations near burrows and follow label instructions carefully to minimize risks.
  4. Exclusion Fencing: Installing underground barriers or fences made of wire mesh or hardware cloth can prevent gophers from accessing specific areas of your property. Bury the fence at least 2 feet deep and angle it outward to deter gophers from burrowing underneath.
  5. Habitat Modification: Removing or reducing sources of food and shelter can make your property less attractive to gophers. Keep lawns and vegetation well-maintained, minimize the use of mulch and ground cover, and remove debris and clutter that could provide hiding places for gophers.
  6. Natural Predators: Encouraging natural predators of gophers, such as owls, hawks, snakes, and domestic cats, can help reduce gopher populations. Provide habitat and nesting sites for these predators, and avoid using rodenticides that may harm them.
  7. Ultrasonic Repellents: Ultrasonic repellent devices emit high-frequency sound waves that are unpleasant to gophers and can deter them from entering certain areas. Place these devices near gopher activity areas, such as burrow entrances or feeding areas.

When dealing with gophers, it's essential to choose the most appropriate and humane method for your situation and follow all safety precautions and legal regulations. If you're unsure how to proceed or if gopher infestations persist despite your efforts, consider consulting with pest management professionals for assistance.

Professional Gopher Control

Whether you noticed a fresh mound, saw a gopher in your yard, or just want to be proactive, you can schedule a consultation with our team of local experts at Affinity Pest Control. We offer comprehensive gopher control to keep your property free of these rodents. Contact our team today to learn more!


FAQ About Gophers in Boise, Idaho

When Are Gophers Active? - Accordion

Gophers are primarily crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active during the early morning and late afternoon hours. However, their activity patterns can vary depending on factors such as environmental conditions, food availability, and human disturbance.

Here's a breakdown of when gophers are typically active:

  1. Morning Activity: Gophers are often most active during the early morning hours, shortly after sunrise. During this time, they emerge from their burrows to forage for food and engage in territorial behaviors such as scent marking and boundary defense.
  2. Late Afternoon Activity: Similar to the morning hours, gophers are active in the late afternoon, particularly in the hours leading up to sunset. This period is another peak time for foraging and territorial activities as gophers take advantage of the cooler temperatures and reduced risk of predation.
  3. Nighttime Activity: While gophers are primarily crepuscular, they may also be active at night, especially in areas with less human disturbance or during periods of cooler weather. Nighttime activity may occur sporadically and is generally less common compared to the early morning and late afternoon hours.
  4. Seasonal Variations: Gopher activity levels can fluctuate seasonally, with increased activity during the warmer months and reduced activity during the colder months. In spring and early summer, when vegetation is abundant and temperatures are mild, gophers may be more active as they breed and raise their young. In contrast, during the winter months, gophers may retreat to their burrows and reduce their activity levels to conserve energy and stay warm.
  5. Environmental Factors: Environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and precipitation can also influence gopher activity patterns. Gophers may be more active during periods of mild weather and reduced activity during extreme heat or cold. Additionally, heavy rainfall or flooding can temporarily displace gophers from their burrows, causing them to become more active as they search for new shelter and foraging opportunities.

What Do Gophers Eat? - Accordion

Gophers are herbivores, meaning they primarily feed on plant material. Their diet consists mainly of roots, bulbs, tubers, and underground stems of various plants. Gophers are known to consume a wide variety of vegetation, including grasses, herbs, shrubs, and agricultural crops. Some of the common types of plants that gophers may feed on include:

  1. Grasses: Gophers often consume the roots and underground stems of grasses, including both native grass species and cultivated turfgrass varieties commonly found in lawns and pastures.
  2. Forbs: Forbs are herbaceous, non-woody plants that gophers may feed on, including wildflowers, weeds, and other broad-leaved plants. Gophers may consume the roots, bulbs, or tubers of forbs, depending on the species and availability.
  3. Shrubs: Gophers may feed on the roots and underground stems of shrubs and woody plants, particularly in areas where shrub cover is abundant. Some shrubs are more susceptible to gopher damage than others, depending on factors such as root depth and palatability.
  4. Vegetable Crops: In agricultural areas, gophers can cause damage to vegetable crops by feeding on the roots and underground portions of plants. Common vegetable crops that may be targeted by gophers include carrots, potatoes, onions, and other root vegetables.
  5. Ornamental Plants: Gophers may also feed on the roots of ornamental plants, flowers, and landscaping vegetation in residential yards and gardens. This can include a wide variety of plant species commonly used for landscaping purposes.

Overall, gophers are opportunistic feeders and will consume whatever plant material is available and accessible in their habitat. Their diet preferences may vary depending on factors such as plant species diversity, soil conditions, and seasonal changes in food availability. While gophers primarily feed on underground plant parts, they may also occasionally consume above-ground vegetation, particularly when burrowing or foraging near the surface.

What Do Gopher Burrows Look Like? - Accordion

Gopher burrows can vary in appearance depending on factors such as soil type, depth, and the age of the burrow. However, there are some common characteristics that can help you identify gopher burrows in your yard:

  1. Mounds of Soil: Gopher burrows typically have one or more mounds of loose soil nearby. These mounds are created as gophers excavate soil from their burrows and push it to the surface. The mounds often have a crescent or fan-shaped appearance, with the opening of the tunnel located off-center.
  2. Raised Ridges or Trails: Gophers create raised ridges or surface trails as they move between their burrows and foraging areas. These ridges may be visible in lawns, fields, or other grassy areas and can vary in height and width depending on the depth of the underlying tunnels.
  3. Entrance Holes: Gopher burrows typically have one or more entrance holes leading into the tunnel system. These holes are usually small and circular, ranging from one to three inches in diameter. The entrance holes may be partially concealed by vegetation or debris, making them sometimes challenging to spot.
  4. Ventilation Holes: In addition to entrance holes, gopher burrows may have ventilation holes scattered throughout the yard. These holes provide fresh air to the underground tunnels and help regulate temperature and humidity levels. Ventilation holes are similar in size to entrance holes and may also be partially concealed by soil or vegetation.
  5. Tunnel Networks: Gopher burrows consist of a network of interconnected tunnels used for nesting, storage, and foraging. The tunnels can extend for several feet below the surface and may have multiple chambers for sleeping, nesting, and storing food.

Overall, gopher burrows can be identified by the presence of mounds of soil, raised ridges or trails, entrance and ventilation holes, and interconnected tunnel networks. By recognizing these signs, you can determine if gophers are active in your yard and take appropriate steps to address the issue.

What Attracts Gophers to Boise, Idaho? - Accordion

Several factors can attract gophers to Boise, Idaho, and its surrounding areas:

  1. Suitable Habitat: Gophers are attracted to areas with loose, well-drained soil that is easy to dig and burrow in. Boise's soil composition, which often includes sandy or loamy soils, provides ideal conditions for gophers to establish burrow systems.
  2. Vegetation: Gophers are herbivores and feed primarily on plant material, including roots, bulbs, tubers, and underground stems. Boise's diverse vegetation, including grasslands, meadows, and agricultural fields, provides a plentiful food supply for gophers.
  3. Water Sources: Gophers require access to water for drinking and maintaining hydration, especially in arid environments like Boise. Natural water sources such as rivers, streams, and ponds, as well as irrigation systems and residential water features, can attract gophers to areas where water is readily available.
  4. Shelter and Protection: Gophers are solitary animals that prefer to establish burrows in secluded areas where they can avoid predators and disturbances. Boise's suburban and urban areas, with their green spaces, parks, and residential yards, can provide suitable habitat for gophers seeking shelter and protection from predators.
  5. Climate: Gophers are adaptable animals that can thrive in a variety of climates, including the semi-arid climate found in Boise. While they may be more active during the warmer months, gophers can remain active year-round in areas with mild winters and limited snowfall.

Overall, the combination of suitable habitat, abundant vegetation, access to water, and sheltered environments makes Boise and its surrounding areas attractive to gophers seeking food, water, and shelter. As a result, gopher populations may be common in both rural and urban areas throughout the region.

 Do Gophers Bite? - Accordion

Gophers are not known to be aggressive towards humans, and they typically avoid direct confrontation whenever possible. However, if a gopher feels threatened or cornered, it may defend itself by biting. Gophers have sharp teeth that they use primarily for gnawing on plant material, but they can also bite if they perceive a threat.

In general, gopher bites are rare occurrences, as gophers prefer to retreat to the safety of their burrows rather than confront humans. However, it's essential to exercise caution when handling or attempting to capture gophers, as they may bite if they feel threatened or startled.

To minimize the risk of being bitten by a gopher, it's best to avoid approaching or attempting to handle gophers unless necessary. If you need to remove a gopher from your property or address gopher-related issues, it's advisable to seek assistance from pest management professionals or wildlife experts who have experience handling and safely removing gophers.

What Are Pocket Gophers? - Accordion

Pocket gophers are rodents belonging to the family Geomyidae, characterized by their distinctive cheek pouches, which they use to carry food and nesting materials. These small mammals are well-adapted for life underground and are known for their burrowing behavior.

Here are some key characteristics and features of pocket gopher species:

  1. Cheek Pouches: Pocket gophers have large, fur-lined cheek pouches located on the sides of their heads. These pouches can be turned inside out and extend from the mouth to the shoulders, allowing gophers to carry food, nesting materials, and other items as they move through their burrows.
  2. Burrowing Behavior: Pocket gophers are highly skilled diggers and spend the majority of their lives underground. They excavate extensive networks of burrows using their powerful forelimbs and sharp claws, creating complex tunnel systems that can extend for several hundred feet. Gopher burrows typically consist of a main tunnel with lateral branches used for nesting, storage, and foraging.
  3. Herbivorous Diet: Pocket gophers are herbivores and feed primarily on plant material, including roots, bulbs, tubers, and underground stems. They consume a wide variety of vegetation, ranging from grasses and herbs to shrubs and trees. Gophers may also store food in their burrows for later consumption.
  4. Solitary Behavior: Pocket gophers are typically solitary animals and maintain exclusive territories around their burrow systems. They use scent marking and aggressive behaviors to defend their territories against intruders, including other gophers.
  5. Reproduction: Pocket gophers reproduce throughout the year, with peak breeding activity occurring in the spring and early summer. Female gophers give birth to litters of three to six pups on average, which are born hairless and blind but develop rapidly.
  6. Ecological Role: Pocket gophers play important ecological roles in their native habitats. Their burrowing activities aerate the soil, improve water infiltration, and mix organic matter, contributing to soil health and fertility. Gophers also provide food for predators such as barn owls, hawks, snakes, and coyotes.

Overall, pocket gophers are fascinating and ecologically important animals that are well-adapted for life underground. While they can sometimes be considered pests due to their burrowing activities, they are an essential part of many ecosystems and play a vital role in soil health and ecosystem functioning.

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