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Dealing with Gophers and Moles in Your Lawn

Gophers and moles can be a real threat to a lawn. Digging, burrowing, trashing the whole lawn — don’t these critters have anything better to do? People often confuse moles and gophers, even though these two underground burrowers are pretty easy to tell apart.

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Moles are small, 6- to 8-inch-long, furry mammals with distinctively pointed snouts and large, clawed front paws they use for digging. Moles feed on underground insects, not grass, but they become a problem because of the raised ridges they leave in the lawn as they burrow around in it. The ridges raise havoc with your lawn mower.

Gophers are larger mammals with small ears and noticeable pouches on either side of their mouths. Gophers feed on plant roots and leave large mounds of freshly dug soil on the lawn. Now that’s a real mess. Gophers generally burrow deeper than moles and don’t leave raised ridges.

You need to be persistent to rid your lawn of either of these devilish diggers, especially gophers. Really, the Bill Murray movie, Caddyshack, isn’t all that far off when it comes to battling the creatures.

Even though your lawn looks like it’s hosting a whole herd of moles or gophers, just one animal may be the cause of all the havoc. That’s the good news. The bad news is that once you get rid of it, another may move right in.

Get up around sunrise when moles and gophers are most active and see whether you can see them working. If you can, you may be able to run out and send them to the hereafter with an accurate push of a shovel. Or stick a hose in the hole and see if you can flood them out and then use the shovel. This is not pretty.

Squeamish? You can try various traps, bombs, and poisons that may or may not work. (The ultra sonic doohickies you stick in the ground don’t work.) Make sure that you have the animal identified properly — that is, whether you have a mole or gopher. Follow labeled instructions carefully, and then keep after the animals. Eliminating the pests may take time.

If you have moles, you may want to get a cat. Cats are pretty good mole hunters.

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