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Best gopher trap?

April 18, 2009

I've seen several different brands of gopher traps mentioned in various posts. Does it really make a difference? And if so, can people here chime in on which they think have worked best for them?

Thanks, we're new to California and new to gophers!

Comments (23)

  • zeuspaul

    Setting them properly makes the biggest difference. I like the black box gopher trap best. It is well built, kills quickly without blood, is easy to set and doesn't require tieing off.


  • tomfarmer

    zeuspaul, more power to ya for getting those things to work.

    My gophers just fill it up with dirt and trip the lever. Maybe if it's new and smells like plastic they can tell it's there. Maybe if you bury it in the dirt for a while it will lose that scent.

    They're smart little buggers, and if you use the sulfur flares they will not only run out and wait until it clears, but they will fill in a tunnel with dirt and green chewed weeds that make it air tight. They are used to having strange things in their tunnels, and they don't hang around to see what happens.

    I've struggled for years with gophers, and had some luck with Mcaphee (sp) traps, but they have to have a rope tied to the frame and the other end tied to a stake pounded into the ground. Otherwise the gopher could take off down the tunnel with it. They trip suddenly and aren't much fun to set. Plus you have to clean a real mess off of them. But mostly my gophers just fill them with dirt and go on about their business, even when I bait them with a piece of carrot. Store them in a safe place because the prongs are sticking out.

    If you use traps, never use bare hands because they can smell that. You need to put two traps head to head, facing each way so no matter which direction they come from they walk into a trap.

    You need to find the large tunnels that are down about a shovel's depth (not the narrow small tunnels closer to the surface), and then once the traps are in place, reconstruct the tunnel so you don't collapse it, make sure it's completely covered with dirt and no light gets through.

    I had a hard time trying to set the Victor trap. Have someone at the store show you how to set whatever trap you buy before you buy it. Make sure all the parts are on it. I bought a few that were missing a part, and it wouldn't set.

    I have tried everything, and the only thing I've gotten to work is hard bait called JT Eaton Gopher Bait Block. It's NOT pellets that the gophers can push back up and birds, cats, dogs can eat it and die. Always handle with gloves. The chunks of the block have seeds in it, they always eat it (unless it gets wet, try to keep it away from flowing water) or an open gopher hole before it rains. Put only in tunnels that are then covered back up.

    It's going to take a long time to get rid of them, because new ones come in and use the tunnel system. I have places where there are intersections and I can't plant anything there, I just use that as a location to put bait. But after a year of baiting them, I don't have to use much now and I can start collapsing some of the tunnels.

    I've tried planting plants in chicken wire and gopher baskets, but they rot underground in 12-18 months. I can pick up a mature rose bush and walk away with it after the gophers claw right through the rusted metal.

    Just because you don't see any dirt being piled up doesn't mean they're not there, so always be checking.

    If there's dirt clods in piles you've got gophers. If there's very fine dirt in the pile, especially if it's clay and you know it takes some serious work to get it fine, you've got moles.

  • gobluedjm 9/18 CA

    I have the wooden kind in the link below. There is a slit in the other end you can't see for the air. Pack dirt around the bottom edges and all the little holes on top and make it air tight except for the slit in the end.
    When they push dirt inside against the piece that protects the slit...wham! It gets them in the belly with a bar flat against the roof. They you got one dead gopher! lol!
    The main key is to make sure it is air tight up against their opening in tunnel etc or they will fill with dirt.
    A friend gave it to me.

    Here is a link that might be useful: gopher trap

  • zeuspaul

    The wood box looks like the Victor black box I use except the black box is plastic.

    I haven't had any trouble with oders. Sometimes I set with bare hands and sometimes with gloves. I don't like sticking my bare fingers in the gopher hole when setting the trap. I set new traps and old traps and traps that have had a dead gopher in them for a few days.

    I dig down until I find the main tunnel. Then using a flat head shovel I make a clean cut so the trap fits tight against the hole. Then drop a little dirt around the edges to make a good seal. Set two traps as noted above. Cover with a trash can lid or a large palm leaf so it's dark. Leave the vent hole open at the end of the trap.

    About twenty percent of the time they fill with dirt and twenty percent I get nothing. Sixty percent there is a gopher within 24 hours. Sometimes it takes three days. If I get nothing in a week I move the trap. Make sure you trap where you see recent activity. There are fewer than you think. Keep at it and you will get them all until you get new ones from your neighbor. Or trap them on your neighbor's property too.


  • zeuspaul

    My neighbor fills the hole with propane. Propane is heavier than air and sinks into the holes and suffocates the gophers. Propane is toxic and may have residual toxins left behind so I don't use it.


  • gobluedjm 9/18 CA

    I usually use gloves to handle it just cuz of diseases. I don't worry about the scent though when packing the dirt around it. I get them right when they first start so no digging for me. I just open the hole back up and place it there.
    Once I didn't fill it in good and a stupid ground squirrel decided he wanted the home. Big mistake!

  • janea

    Sounds like there is no one trap that is universally thought best. Since I'm sure I'll need plenty perhaps I'll try several different kinds. As far as wood vs plastic perhaps the wood seems more innocuous to the gopher? I'll see what I can get at our hardware store. It really seems that technique and experience are more important than the type of trap.

  • hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

    I use the "black hole" trap. It works well. The trick is to get the traps planted as soon as you see a mound, before the gopher has time to dig an extensive tunnel system which gives it more opportunity to avoid the traps. I walk my garden every morning without fail to check for mounds. I can usually trap the gopher within an hour.

    Also never handle the traps with your hands, so you don't leave your scent on the trap. Always wear gloves.

  • janea

    Thank you all for your advice! We've just set out some traps, wish us luck.

    As an aside, my husband was digging along a trench around the yard yesterday and he unearthed a gopher! It looked up at him pleadingly, but he mashed it anyway. Ugh. I am not sure I would have been able to do that.

  • ltecato

    I guess the gopher snakes are just not doing their jobs. What about pet ferrets? Thought they were good for getting rid of burrowing pests.

  • californian

    I thought of an idea that might work, wonder why no one ever thought of it before. Why not try electrocuting the gophers. I may just try it out. My idea, take a short length of plastic pipe about two or three inches in diameter and drill two holes in it, one on each side. Strip the ends bare off a pair of insulated wires and insert the exposed wire into the holes so the bare wires are partially blocking the inside of the pipe. Hook the wires up to an extention cord and plug it in to 120 volts AC. Put the pipe in the gophers tunnel and bait it with something. When the gopher enters the pipe it brushes against the hot wires and gets electrocuted. I might wire a light bulb in series with the wires to keep from blowing a circuit breaker from the short circuit the fried gopher would create.
    Or else use a metal pipe and hook one wire up to the pipe and insert the bare end of the other wire into the pipe through an insulator. Then the gopher completes the circuit between the pipe and wire and gets fried. When the bulb glows you know you got a gopher.

  • chadinlg Zone 9b Los Gatos CA

    There is already such a device - the rat zapper 2000... Don't know if a gopher would go into one...

  • sffog

    i thought about propane weed torch, sometimes i see the gopher tunneling an area and i've thought about torching the movement in hopes of roasting the varmit

  • Poacherjoe

    All the traps work! You just have to spend enough time doing it to perfect how it is done.As said above when using the box trap it is important to seal all the light except for the hole or vent in the end.The wire traps need to have the hole enlarged so you can get them in far enough then adjust the trip for minimal movement.The bigger the hole means a big gopher,If you miss him the first time it gets tougher to catch the second time.Number one and fullproof method is the live gopher snake.If I see one crossing the road and have a stubborn gopher I stop and catch it to bring home and place it in the hole,Goodbye gopher!A farmer used to pay me 50 cents per gopher so I learned how to do it.PJ

  • hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

    Ditto the Black Box/Black Hole traps (which appear to be identical to the wooden "Gopher Getter" traps, but are black plastic. And zeuspaul is correct - find the main run and place two traps back to back, facing away from each other. I stick a little carrot in the trap which is probably just for my benefit, but doesn't hurt. Tuck dirt around the sides and I leave a little light peeking through, because the gophers will be attracted to the light and come towards the trap to try to cover up their run which has been exposed. I place a big plastic milk crate over the area to protect it from my dog. I leave the trap there for 3 or 4 days. If I don't catch the buggers, I move further down the run. You can use a piece of rebar or a metal bar designed to find gopher runs so you can dig a specific hole (and not dig up your yard trying to find the run), and re-set my traps. I catch gophers this way about 80% of the time. And once I caught a roof rat! Very odd, I was pretty shocked at that. I found my Black Hole gopher traps at my local garden center. And I would NOT recommed using propane, egads! It is so explosive and flammable. That has to be illegal in the state of California!!

    Patty S.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Woodstream Blackbox Gopher Trap

  • fruithack

    Only one trap REALLY works, and commercial farmers have adopted it big time. It's called a "Cinch Sure" trap and is available from fntpost.com. No bait, no digging, no scent worries, just dead gophers. The "mole" size fits my gopher holes best. I still have twenty black hole traps that two cinch sure traps replaced. I've tried all other forms of gopher eradication with the only result being frustration and a loss of time and money. After years of being at the mercy of a half blind rodent, I found satisfaction.

  • dirtyrat75_yhaoo_com

    My best luck with the black hole put carrots in the little hole and then i put duct tape over the hole and a little dirt in front of the trap on the floor so the gophers don't feel the plastic on there feet and i catch them every time :D

  • hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

    Scott, that's what I do - use carrots. And finding the main runway is pretty key. Dig down, place one Black Box facing one way, and a second facing the opposite direction. My brother-in-law has this down to a science, and consistently catches them with this method. I fortunately do not have the gopher problems they do. Instead for me, it's roof rats, ground squirrels and rabbits.

    Patty S.

  • jubilante

    We've only had luck with cinch traps, and the kills were clean.

    We no longer start the day with the gopher damage report!

  • calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

    I prefer the cinch trap, and it does catch them,sometimes. They may back fill the trap several times before making a mistake and being caught. To spare me repeated trap settings, I now let them back fill once so I know they are there, dig out the trap and clear the hole. With a long tablespoon I reach back in the hole with a spoonful of poison, reset the trap. The next day I remove the trap which was not buried this time, and refill the hole. I do not have the satisfaction of seeing the dead gopher, but I also do not see any more activity. Al

  • hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

    Al, that is so very clever. If the trap doesn't get them, the poison bait does, and then they die underground. Well done.

    Patty S.

  • ggarner

    Personally I have had the most success with this sort of trap:

    The key is knowing how to properly use the traps. If I can find a good hole I get them 1st try about 90% of the time. This is a good informative video on how to do it properly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Epe4DXA1yow

    We have such sandy soil here that I dont put the plug back on top of the hole, I use a small piece of plywood that is about 18" square and toss it on top and put dirt around the edges so that no light gets in. When I check the next day, normally the trail of ants is a dead give away that I got my gopher. I lay 2 traps 1 facing in each direction in the hole, have never used the peanut butter but it may be worth a shot.

    To be proactive against the gophers, I take the casualties and toss them on top of a 6' tall post that has a platform on top and usually that day, or sometime in the evening a hawk or owl will come by and eat them. I figure by feeding the prey animals they will be more likely to be in my area and they can do the job for me! Another technique I used to do is to take the dead gopher and push him into the hole I just caught him in and then fill the rest of the hole in. That way when he decomposes the stink passes through the rest of the passages hopefully sending a message to fellow gophers that this is not a safe area.

    My uncle has 300 acres and the gophers squirrels and moles get in and undermine graded banks etc, he ended up resorting to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeywW7r4LA4

    Must say its one of the funnest gopher traps I have ever used!

  • home_grower

    After years of varying success with traps like the one above I got tired of resetting again and again when the smart devils figured out what was at the end of their hole.
    A few days ago I noticed that I had a new gopher in both my front and back yards. After viewing this thread I purchased a Victor black box trap. I got two gophers in two days.
    You have to make a larger hole to fit the trap into their exit hole. I used no bait but after placing the trp make sure to cover the front of the trap from leaking any light.
    Both times I caught the gopher within 4 hours of setting it. This trap is easy to set and easy to release. I have no plans on using the cinch traps anymore. This one is easier to set (except for making a larger hole to set it) and works better.


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