Identifying what is digging in your yard can be a challenge. To the untrained eye, and even sometimes to the trained eye, the activity from a gopher and the activity from a mole seems the same. Both critters dig underground, make mounds, and are rarely seen on the surface. (In fact, if you see something running on the surface it is probably a different type of critter, like a vole or ground squirrel.) While they have some similarities they are actually very different animals.
Gophers are herbivores, so they are the ones that eat plants and steal veggies. They typically make mounds of dirt on the surface that are shaped like a half-circle with a plug in the middle. However, not every gopher mound looks the same so it can be hard to tell. Their mounds tend to be flatter with fine and uniform dirt consistency. They also tend to dig around the same area so you make see a group of mounds within a few feet of each other.
Moles eat grubs and insects in the soil. This means that they aren’t the culprit when it comes to plants dying and root damage. They have a tendency to dig both deep tunnels and shallow tunnels which means sometimes you’ll see a raised trail of pushed up dirt. A lot of times they dig around hard edges like bender boards, direways, sidewalks, pathway stones, and retaining walls. If they aren’t in or near your lawn, you may not really have to worry about them since they will not go after your plants. You can just stomp down the trails and mounds and hopefully they will move on. Or you can call us, and we can make sure they get taken care of. If they are ever in or around your lawn we recommend control since their shallow tunnels can cause damage to the roots of the lawn. Their mounds tend to look like forced up piles, cone-shaped with clumpy dirt. They can also dig very quickly and will sometimes make mounds spread out all over the yard.
The reason gopher and mole mounds look different is because of the way they dig. Gophers collect dirt and take it outside of their tunnel systems as they work. Moles bulldoze dirt out of their way, forcing the ground to move around them. Moles are hunting so they may travel farther, where gophers and gathering food storage and finding root systems to attack.
As you take these things into consideration, it may help you identify what you have going on in your yard. It is important to consider these things if you plan on going after the problem on your own because most over-the-counter bait options are labelled for both types of critters. That would be like trying to catch a lion and giraffe with the same bait! It wont work! We use primarily trapping for control, but our traps are different for each type of critter because they are not the same size animals. Additionally, their digging patterns are different which is an important consideration when setting your tras and checking them.
As always, we are here to help answer any more questions you may have but I hope this helps.