Q. How can gophers and their tunnels underneath the lawn be controlled without using chemicals?
Most common animal pests in a garden are gophers or moles are the most troublesome animal pests of the lawn. Gopher tunnels are distinguished from mole tunnels by the crescent-shaped mound of soil around the entrance hole. Neither of them are interested in eating your grass, but the tunnels they plow through your garden definitely detract from it. Gophers range in length from 6 to 12 inches. They have a thick body with small eyes and ears. Their sense of smell is excellent. They seldom are found above ground. Once gophers arrive in your yard, they resemble a small invasion force. One acre can feed and house 16 or more gophers, so it is easy to see why they can be a very serious problem. Gophers range from Indiana west to the Pacific Ocean. The most common is the pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius).
After digging a mound, they may close up the entrance hole with a soil plug. A gopher can create several mounds a day. Gopher tunnels, about 2 inches in diameter, follow no pattern, running from a few inches to 2 feet below the soil.
Gophers eat the underground parts of garden crops and a wide variety of roots, bulbs, grasses, tubers and sees. They can damage lawns, flowers, vegetables, vines, and trees. They can girdle and kill young fruit trees, or smother small plants
Here is some strategies:
Repellents: the success of the scent repellents is spotty. Some homeowners swear by them; other find they don't work, referring to Hinder, or Ro-pel for example.
Used cat Litter when buried repel moles and gophers.Dump the litter right into the holes of the active burrows. But use caution when handling and distributing litter: Cat feces may contain toxoplasmosis parasites, which can infect humans...Well, that one is not good...
Now there is the expensive German made high-Tech vibration device, called the roden-Repelling Garden Stake is a commercial device from West Germany. It is battery-powered and vibrates at 60-second intervals to repel burrowing rodents and moles over as much as 1/3 acre. It is carried by Hammacher Schlemmer. Another device is called GoPherIt is another battery powered sound-emitting device that you can insert into the lawn or garden area. It emits sound waves every 15 seconds, and will keep gophers out of areas of up to 100 feet in diameter. The sound waves cannot be detected by humans or nonrodent pets. Available from Ryans Company and Ringer Corporation. There may be others check online....
You can drive out the gopher by using sulfur into the holes and sealing them. The cheapest source of sulfur is one of the emergency highway flares that come with auto safety kits or are found in auto supply stores. Cut through an emergency flare with a sharp knife (not a saw). Dig into the runway, then pour the flare powder directly into the tunnel. Cover this hole, as well as all the exit holes that you have discovered in the yard.The more airtight the tunnel system is, the more anxious the gophers will be to leave. once you are sure that the gophers are gone, seal all tunnels securely with soil. You'll know the gophers are gone with you no longer see fresh mounds around.
Another option is to place small ammonia-soaked sponges into each gopher hole and then seal them all. Gophers will abandon their burrows in a hurry. The best time to use this control is in early spring time.
The most reliable control device is a trap, and best prevention is an effective barrier. Traps can be set up over the openings of the gopher tunnels, then locate the main gopher burrow by probing the soil with long screwdriver or similar probe. the the probe hits the main tunnel, it should suddenly drop about 2 inches. Once you've located the main tunnel, insert a garden hose into it. Flooding is next. When you turn the water on, it will flow in bother directions throughout the tunnel system. The gopher will try to escape by exiting from one of the mounds. It can then be trapped and removed. Best traps for gophers: Standard wooden-based rat traps, a two-pronged pincher trap (called the Macabee trap), or a squeeze-type box trap. Bait with a large amount of grain, sunflower seeds, peanuts, or other nut meats. Although you may not approve of trapping method.
Okay I hope this is helpful.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service