Gopher Behavior: What Plants Do Gophers Eat?

While we may still be making our way through the winter months, it’s always good to prepare for the change of seasons—especially when that means the reemergence of pesky creatures such as gophers. As the weather warms up and winter turns into spring, you may start to notice an increase in gopher activity. Besides the holes that gophers can burrow in your yard, they can also be a nuisance by chowing down on some of your plants. You may be wondering, what plants do gophers eat? Keep reading to find out.

gopher eating

There are several different species of gophers found across North America and the United States, with pocket gophers being the most widespread. In the United States, there are thirteen different species of pocket gopher. Pocket gophers are named for the special pouches in their cheeks, called pockets, which they use to transport food for later storage. Another interesting fact about them is that these pouches are actually lined with fur. Pocket gophers will also use these cheek pockets to transport nesting materials into their burrows.

Plants that gophers eat

Unlike moles, which are omnivores, gophers only feed on plants and are strict herbivores. So in addition to the holes that they burrow, they can cause significant damage to your garden by eating away at it. There are three main ways that gophers will eat the plants in your garden:

  1. Eating the roots and substances they can get beneath the surface of the soil.
  2. Venturing out of their tunnels for very short distances in order to get plants and then bring them back into their tunnels.
  3. Pulling plants or vegetation right into their tunnel from below the surface.

Gophers eat a wide variety of plants, and are not particularly picky. They are known to damage everything from ornamental shrubs, flowers, and agriculture crops. What gophers eat varies with the availability of food sources around them. Gophers living in different areas may eat different plants. Additionally, gophers will eat different plants at different times of the year, based on seasonal availability. And, the season may also affect how much a gopher will eat. While there are a lot of factors you could consider, gophers will generally eat:

  1. Alfalfa and dandelions are two of the most preferred plants that gophers will eat
  2. Succulent vegetation
  3. Fleshy roots of both plants and trees. Roots are generally the year-round source of food for gophers.
  4. Bulbs
  5. Tubers, like potatoes and sweet potatoes
  6. Grasses
  7. Seeds
  8. Flowering plants
  9. Bark, in addition to tree roots

As you can see, gophers can eat a lot of different things. It’s one of the reasons that it’s difficult to dissuade them from your yard. According to Penny Pawl, a master gardener who contributes a weekly column to the University of California, the following plants are ones that might foil gophers because they are not a pleasant taste to them:

  1. Nandina
  2. Fortnight lily
  3. Lily of the Nile
  4. Daylilies
  5. Salvias
  6. Hellebores
  7. Society garlic
  8. Monkey flower
  9. Verbascum

While gophers are mostly nuisances, it’s worth pointing out that they’re not all bad. Their behavior can help to increase soil fertility, because they mix fecal waste and plant material into it. Their behaviors help to keep soil healthy and able to absorb moisture effectively. On the flipside, gopher burrows might increase weed infestation and could cause injury in humans or livestock that step in them. All in all—we understand why you don’t want gophers in your yard. Terminix offers a wide variety of treatments and services to help you control nuisance wildlife in your home. Get started to see if we have service in your area.

 

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