A few months ago I noticed that my four-foot-tall sweet olive tree was all shriveled—like it needed water. I pushed on it and it the whole plant fell over. Its roots had been chewed off at the soil level.
At that moment, I really hated gophers
I’ve tried nearly everything to get rid of gophers. Although there is one thing I won’t do and that is to use poison. I have dogs and kids and poison always seemed to me a bad idea.
Four years ago we bought our home, and it came with a free gopher infestation in the lawn.
My husband and I got right down to business of getting rid of the little varmints. First we tried drowning them. We would stick a hose down a hole thinking when we turned the water on it would run through the gopher’s little underground city and that would be the end of the gophers.
We ran the hose down a gopher hole all right, then turned the water on full blast. For an hour we pumped water into that hole. We live near a lake and I could have sworn the water level was higher on the lake the next day.
I also had an uneasy feeling the entire time we were blasting water down that hole that at any minute our house would disappear into a giant sink hole and the gopher would have the last laugh. We never could figure out where the water was going.
We had four new gopher mounds the next day.
After our first failed attempt with water, my husband Rich and I went down to the local hardware store and purchased some Gopher bombs. Bombs. It sounded so promising. We lit them, stuck them into the gopher hole and watched it smoke.
The next day there was a brand new gopher mound.
Rich became obsessed with this smoke thing. The whole idea is to choke them to death or them or drive them away. After several smoke bombs someone told him road flares worked even better.
Now, flares are fun. They are very dramatic and they burn a long time. The flares seemed to work at first, but within a few days we would notice another new gopher mound. Even though I could tell that the flare thing wasn’t working my husband believed it was. His fixation with flares grew. He scoured the Internet. Until at last he found what he considered a really efficient contraption for getting rid of his little nemeses. It was called the Super Smoker. It was easy to build. It consisted of a flare, a five-gallon bucket, a small computer-type fan you attached to a hole in the bucket bottom, and an extension cord.
You stick a lit flare in the gopher hole; you put the bucket with the fan over it and turn it on. The fan would blow the smoke into the gopher hole. Smoke would come out from every crack and crevice of the gopher’s underground maze.
This method was very cool and it drove my husband into sort of a Caddyshack frenzy. He figured he had finally found the answer. How could that little critter survive in all that smoke? But survive it did. Again the gopher was quiet for a few days and then up would pop one or more new mounds. This drove my husband crazy. Bill Murray would have been proud as Rich spent every spare moment he had moving the Super Smoker around the yard to the location of the newest hole and then turning on. This all came to an abrupt stop when he set my four year old son’s hair of fire with a flare My son still brags about it. “ My daddy set me on fire once.” Then I have to explain to all the other horrified parents that Rich was only trying to save my garden and my son’s inquisitive head accidentally got in the way.
We had to eventually rip out all of the lawn to make way for a new septic system. And when we finally put in a new lawn, we installed it with gopher wire. I highly recommend this.
The gophers did come back, however, everywhere else.
So I started planting everything in wire gopher baskets, which also work but can be costly depending how much garden you have--not to mention the time and energy involved. I even made my own baskets for a while but again I just don’t have that much time. And the gopher is still there…just waiting.
I finally broke down and called the gopher exterminator that my friend had recommended. This worked great and I learned a lot from the guy. He told me that even though it appears that there is more than one gopher that there usually is only one. Gophers have a large territory and they are very industrious. He talked about gophers so fondly that I almost hated to kill them. I said almost. He was an honest guy and he only charged $50 per gopher and there have never been more than one at a time. Great. My gopher exterminator was the least expensive of every other exterminator I called. Great. But the problem was he was flaky and his receptionist was rude.
I could never get him to show up after the first day.
So, I was watching a gardening show recently. On this show I learned about a product that contained castor oil. Gophers evidentially hate the smell of castor oil and it keeps them away for months without killing them. I was so excited I ran out and bought two kinds from different manufacturers. I used them according to the directions. On the bottle it said that after use of the product I would probably see increased activity and then the gophers would leave. Well I did see increased activity. I kept rereading the label thinking maybe this was a product developed by some animal rights activist that was really trying to develop a super gopher. I kept thinking isn’t castor oil good for you? Don’t they give it to babies? Had I been fooled?
The sweet olive was the last straw. I called my gopher exterminator again he never showed. I was wining to my husband for the hundredth time. In the course of the wining session Rich told me that the gopher guy used Macabee gopher traps and he just happen to have one in his workshop. What? You have one? You never told me you had a gopher trap? Had Rich been on the gophers side this whole time hoping to drive me crazy and lock me up in some mental institution and gain control of my trust fund? Remembering I didn’t have a trust fund, another thought popped into my mind. Did I finally have the answer I had been searching for? Could I set my own trap and get this gopher for good and for free? No, I had better than that. I had a husband who would do it for me. I don’t think I ever loved my husband more than at that moment.
I knew just the hole to set the trap in. It was a big new mound that I could stick my whole hand in up to my elbow. You need to find a hole like that to get the trap to work. It has to be a place the gopher is guaranteed to be using. Rich followed the directions that said you should tie a string to the trap, and then shove it into the hole without letting the tunnel collapse. This didn’t work.
Our friend Max came over the next day and showed us that if you attach a wire coat hanger to the trap you not only have a handle to pull the trap out but you also have a handle to push the trap way into the tunnel.
Then you carefully cover the hole up, and come back the next day.
And the next day we had our gopher.