Do you own a lawn or garden, and you need clarification on what is causing the holes, wilted plants, and mounds of dirt in your perfectly maintained property? More often than not, the animals like moles and gophers burrowing underground cause these problems.
Gardeners and homeowners loathe these creatures for a good reason – they love destroying gardens and lawns. These burrowing animals share some similarities, and it can be tricky to tell the difference between these pests, but knowing which one you’re dealing with is key in choosing the proper treatment method.
This blog post is for you if you need to learn the difference between a gopher vs mole. By the end, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which type of pest you have and how to get rid of it.
Gopher vs. Mole – What’s the Difference?
If you’re ever unsure whether the small mammal scurrying around your garden is a gopher vs mole, don’t worry. Here are a few key characteristics to help you differentiate between them, such as their appearance(if you catch a glimpse of them), diet, mounds they create, and the damage they cause.
After measuring the two species side-by-side, it’s easy to see that gophers tend to appear larger than moles.
- Gophers are medium-sized rodents and usually grow to be about 12 inches long.
- Moles are small mammals, usually around 6-8 inches in length, that have some similarities to shrews.
It is also noteworthy that gophers generally weigh heavier than moles.
- Most gophers weigh between 0.5 and 1 pound, but especially large species can reach up to 2.2 pounds.
- Moles weigh much less, usually only 2.5-4 ounces or 0.25 pounds.
When you’re trying to figure out which animal is which, start by looking at its shapes, with rodents, for example, moles and gophers, have such distinctive bodies that you’ll be able to tell them apart immediately!
Moles have long, sharp snouts and bodies shaped like cylinders. Their most notable feature is their elongated, pinkish snout.
A gopher’s head is round and broad. Gophers are also known as pocket gophers because of the fur-lined pouches near their mouths, which they use to store food and materials for making nests.
Eyes and Ears
A Gopher has eyes that are small but noticeable, a short neck, and round ears. Gophers have two large incisor teeth on both the top and bottom of their mouth.
Unlike gophers, moles don’t have external ears. Their eyes are beady and practically invisible too. Even though they can’t see well, if you didn’t know any better, you might think they were blind!
Moles have long claws and feet that look like paddles. These physical features help them dig through the soil easily. They also have an extra thumb which helps them dig. They may look tiny, but their front legs are deceptively powerful and help them to dig 15 feet per hour.
Gophers have sharp claws on their paws to help them burrow underground and whiskers that help guide them in the darkness of their tunnels.
Mole’s fur is very soft – it ranges from gray to brown (and some even have hints of silver). The texture of their fur allows them to back up through a tunnel without getting soil stuck in their coat.
Gophers’ fur largely depends on their surrounding environment, as it helps them camouflage. Standard gopher colors can go from yellowish-brown to black, with the underside having a lighter shade, like white.
Unlike moles, gophers have small thick tail–that is lined with an unnoticeable amount of hair.
Gophers typically live solo in their burrows, yet these dwellings can be extensive. The only time more than one gopher will occupy a single burrow is when mating in spring and summer or if the female has young she’s caring for.
Moles are also loners, and their burrow systems can be interconnected, much like gophers. They’re busy digging year-round but peak in activity from May to June. A single mole can create an extensive network of burrows. They mate in February and March but remain solitary for the rest of the year.
Another significant difference between moles and gophers is what they eat, such as:
Gophers are herbivores, and their favorite diet consists of:
- Underground plant roots
Moles are omnivore creatures that enjoy both plants and meat in their diet. They especially love to eat:
The tunnels that moles and gophers create look different from each other, even though they both burrow underground.
The average mole tunnel is 3-12 inches below ground, while gophers go 6-18 inches deep. It explains why a gopher’s nest and food storage chambers can be as far as 6 feet underground, whereas mole nests only reach 3 feet beneath the surface.
Moles may not have warrens that penetrate deeply into the ground, but they certainly make up for it in size. For example, the average gopher territory is 200-2,000 square feet, whereas a mole’s territory can reach 1-2 acres or an impressive 80,000 square feet.
The two animals’ mounds are significantly different from one another such as:
Gopher mounds are unique because of their fan, horseshoe, crescent-shaped, or semi-circular structures. You can always spot the entrance to the burrow on the less complete side of the mound. They’re pretty eye-catching once you know what to look for.
Mole mounds are cone-shaped and look like miniature volcanoes, round with a burrow entrance in the center, where the expression “make a mountain out of a molehill” originates.
Signs of Damage
Gophers are herbivores, and their feeding causes damage not only to the plant itself but also to its roots and tubes, thus causing:
- Pulling the plant from its root system.
Another telltale sign that you have gophers is when you start seeing scattered piles of dirt around your property as these creatures like to dig new tunnels – called “feed holes” – to store or eat their food.
Moles consume insects below your home, garden, and yard resulting in immediate devastation of your lawn and the foundation underneath your home.
If left unchecked, moles can wreak havoc on your lawn. Their food search (worms and grubs) will disrupt the earth, exposing plant roots and grass to disease and depriving them of essential nutrients. Over time, this will cause your turf to yellow and die.
How to Get Rid of Gophers and Moles
Getting rid of either type of creature can take time and effort, first, you must find the main tunnel, then use the right bait for the traps and check them often!
Standard Methods Used for Controlling Both Culprits
- Trapping their runs and mounds
- Baiting their runs and mounds
- Using ultrasonic or chemical repellents
- Installing physical barriers
- Introducing natural predators (Cats and Dogs)
- Employing noise deterrents
- Applying Toxicants (Poisons) to the soil
How to Get Rid of Moles
1. Remove Food Source
Moles are drawn to yards with food sources like earthworms, grubs, and lawn insects. To help limit their food supply, use products labeled to control grubs, ants, mole crickets, and other lawn insects. These products may include biological controls or insecticides that must be applied according to the directions on the label.
2. Apply Repellents
Mole repellents are a convenient, non-lethal way to remove moles from your yard.
They come in granular or liquid forms and are meant to be applied around the perimeter of your property. Repellents usually contain castor oil, garlic, and other natural ingredients that moles find undesirable.
How to Kill Moles
The Tomcat® Mole Trap is a great option for killing moles quickly and effectively. This trap works by catching the mole in its jaws, then holding it securely until it can be disposed of. The trap has an easy-to-use design that eliminates the need to draw blood or handle the pest directly.
Moles can also be killed using Tomcat® Mole Killer and Tomcat® Mole Killer Grubs. These baits are designed to simulate the mole’s food source of earthworms and grubs, causing them to eat the bait and quickly die (within 12-24 hours after ingestion). The lures can be placed in tunnels or areas frequently traveled by moles.
How to Get Rid of Gophers
1. Use Sonic Spikes or Sound Machines
Sonic spikes, also known as ultrasonic repellers, emit a high-pitched noise to disrupt gopher behavior and drive them away from your yard. Sound machines work the same way, playing noises that irritate the gophers’ sensitive hearing.
2. Trap and Relocate the Gophers
Traps are another effective way to get rid of gophers without killing them. Place traps in their tunnels and check them every few days. Once you’ve trapped a gopher, release it far away from your yard so it won’t come back.
3. Use Castor Oil Granules
Castor oil granules are a natural repellant that can help keep gophers away from your yard. Spread the granules around the yard, covering any burrows you find.
4. Plant Gopher-Resistant Plants
Certain plants are naturally resistant to gophers, making them a great option to keep these pests away from your yard. Plants like sage, geranium, and daffodils are all excellent choices for gopher repellent.
How to Kill Gophers
1. Use Gopher Poison
Gopher poison is a fast and effective way to get rid of gophers. You can buy it at garden centers or online and sprinkle it into their burrows. Be sure to feed the poison away from any edible plants in your yard. Some best products include:
- Kaput-D Gopher Bait
- Motomco gopher killer
- Contrac pellets
2. Use Gopher Traps
Traps are an easy way to kill gophers, place the traps in their tunnels and check them every few days for any trapped gophers.
- Victor The Black Box
- Victor Easy Set
- Victor M9013 Gopher Trap
Moles and gophers might look the same to you, but they are two entirely different animals that require their own solutions if you want to get rid of them. Moles are known for their destructive digging behavior, which can damage your property’s foundation or destroy your lawn.
On the other hand, gophers eat plants and crops alive, making them the worst nightmare. These pests can wreak havoc on your land, so make sure you know the difference between these two underground dwellers and how to get rid of them for good. Good luck!