Pocket Gophers are rodents that vary in size from 15-25cm. They have small eyes, short ears and highly sensitive whiskers, which help them move in the dark. Their large-clawed front paws are curved making them ideal for digging. They have soft, fine hair that is grey to brown. These burrowing animals get their name from fur-lined external cheek pouches or pockets they use for carrying food and nesting materials. They have an unusual feature where their lips can close behind their four large teeth to keep dirt out of their mouth when they use their teeth for digging. These rodents are active year round. They do not hibernate.
Pocket Gophers are often confused with moles, which are not present in Alberta. Trapping is the best method for control. Traps should be set in the freshest tunnels. Pull the soil away from the tunnel set the trap into the hole, push dirt back up around the trap. Check traps in the morning; move trap after 48 hours, and try to find the freshest tunnels for the traps.
- Feed on vegetation only – roots, bulbs and other fleshy portions of plants that they encounter while digging.
- They will also eat leaves, and stems of plants near their tunnel entrances and can pull entire plants into their tunnels.
- During winter in areas that have snow, pocket gophers will chew on the bark of trees and shrubs.
- Mounds of dirt from tunnelling activity, tunnels approximately 7.5cm (3inches) in diameter.
- Feed on roots and other fleshy plant parts – kill or girdle plants.
- Destroy entire plants.
Voles are small rodents similar to field mice. They have small ears, a rounded muzzle and head; short tail and greyish-brown fur. Voles are active day and night and throughout the entire year. They construct surface runways and underground tunnels with many burrow entrances. Voles do a lot of damage, especially during the winter months as they travel in tunnels beneath the insulation of snow.
- Snake-like 2.5-5cm tunnels (runways) of dead grass throughout your lawn that lead to shallow burrows.
- Bark has been removed completely around the base of trees and shrubs (girdling – complete removal of a strip of bark around the circumference of a branch or trunk, which results in death of the tree over time). While they prefer to chew on young trees and plants, they will eat any trees if food is scarce, and will alter their diet to meet nutritional needs.
- Will feed on grasses, forbs, agricultural crops, ground bulbs, root vegetables or exposed roots of older trees.
Prevention and Control
- Eliminate habitat (tall grass, weeds, pruning debris) Keep your lawn mowed, especially going into the winter
- Clean up plant debris – plant debris can be a temporary food source
- Wrap trees with tree guards that cover the trunks 45cm (18 inches) above ground. This will protect tree against voles chewing and girdling.
These products are organic materials that contain predator blood, which will deter the small rodents.
The Black Box (trap)
- Plant this trap by the most recently dug hole. It will catch the critter where you can release them safely later.
The Giant Destroyer (gas)
- Fill in all of the pests holes except one, have the back fill ready. Put the gas product in the hole and fill it.