[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
64°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 21-22
2007 - Buckweed fire chars 38,000 acres, destroys 21 homes in Canyon Country and Agua Dulce [story]


Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, May 8, 2014

evelynevandersande_mugYou have probably never seen it, but you know its habitat. You might not even be totally sure what it looks like. Does it have a long tail or a short one? But you know for sure what its house looks like. When it digs a tunnel, it leaves at the entrance a specific little mound. If you own a golf course and you see many of these mounds, you will go into despair mode, and all-out war is declared, often involving very large amounts of poison.

What I am talking about? Gophers, of course. If you see those little mounds of freshly dug soil in your garden, the same sinking feeling might arise, but right away I want to beg you never to turn toward poison to get rid of the problem. If the gopher eats the poison, it might die, indeed, but so would the dog eating the dead gopher, or the owl coming by on his nightly hunt. Once poison enters the life cycle, it is difficult to stop the effect.

Also know that those poisons look like little blue granules that have been mistaken for candies by some children. So be extremely conscious of what you are doing.

Photo by Ken-ichi Ueda

Photo by Ken-ichi Ueda

If gophers are part of your garden, you will notice some strange things happening. Let’s say you went to the garden center, bought a new plant, made a nice, big hole and planted it. A few days later, you are admiring your plant when you see it agitated with a slight tremor. You come close by to check on it when you notice that instead of growing up, your plant has sunk into the ground. When you take hold of it, it does not offer any resistance, and you easily pull it out of the ground because all of the roots have been systematically sheared off.

We have a house in Ventura bordering a large natural area, and we have plenty of deer (lovely to see) and gophers (not our favorites).

My husband, in sheer despair one day, told me, “Please write an article about the gophers. There must be some reason they exist. If I understand them better, I might be able to accept that we have to share this garden with them.”

This was expressed with some urgency, so I decided to do my best to answer his question.

In spite of all my research, the only advantage of gophers is that their tunnels aerate the soil, helping in water dispersion when it rains – and that is it. They can also be prey for owls and cats, but those will need a lot of patience and good eyesight because, as stated, gophers are plenty, we see traces that they have been active, digging tunnels and eating roots, but we very seldom see them above ground.

Gopher damage. Photo: Ken Emmerson

Gopher damage. Photo: Ken Emmerson

In five years of being surrounded by evidence of their work, I have seen one only once, and only because it had been disturbed and was quickly running back to its tunnel. A round little body with strong shoulders (all of the heavy digging, I guess) was the general impression I got in those few seconds.

Their full and complete name is pocket gopher, and if you want to be technical, they are burrowing rodents from the family Geomyidae. They have nothing in common with ground squirrels – even if both are known for digging tunnels.

Let’s clarify right away some stories about those famous pockets. They are used only to collect food. The pocket gophers dig tunnels and they are larder hoarders. When they see something good to eat, food goes in the pocket and stays there until the gopher is back quietly in its burrow. The deep pouches are large, fur-lined, can be turned inside-out, and extend from the mouth all the way back to the shoulder, so you bet they can store large amounts of food in those long pockets.

Damaged rose root balls

Damaged rose root balls

Gophers do not live in large communities, and they try never to be above ground, as they know coming above ground is asking for disaster. Their main predators are weasels, snakes and hawks. Humans try but do not succeed very often. They also often carry parasites. They are aggressive if someone is threatening their burrow or tunnel, and more than one gardener and cat has been seriously bitten by their long, sharp teeth.

They love soil that is soft and easy to dig, so your prized vegetable garden or lawn is like heaven, and well-plowed farms and other agricultural areas are favored by this pest.

Gophers eat earthworms, grubs, plant roots, shrubs and any juicy vegetables. From personal experience, the only plant they seem to leave alone is lavender – but that might change any day.

Grumpy gophers prefer to live on their own, but they do need to reproduce, so the male and female might share some burrows if their territories are close to each other. But they still prefer to have their own independent tunnels. Nevertheless, they manage to reproduce a few times per year depending on the area (the more food available, the more breeding). Each litter has two to five young in general, but it also depends on the species. The babies are born blind and are taken care of by the mother. They are weaned at 40 days.

Photo: Leonardo Weiss

Photo: Leonardo Weiss

Yes, they do have a tail, in case you are still wondering, 1 or 2 inches long. It is hairy and they use it to feel around tunnels when they walk backward. They weigh about a half-pound, but some species weigh as much as 2.2 pounds. The male is usually larger than the female, and their lifespan is about five years. Their fur is brown, so they blend nicely with the soil. Good solid teeth are needed to chew through large and woody roots, and they use them all the time. As they are rodents, their teeth grow continuously so they are always ready for action.

If you are into sports, you might know Gainer the Gopher, the mascot of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League, and if you are into movies, you might remember the hilarious comedy “Caddyshack,” where the gopher wins every time.

They are here to stay and their population is doing very well, but they are considered a pest. If you have a close relationship with them and you have plants that survived their attack, I would appreciate you letting me and my poor husband know how you did it. Thank you in advance.

 

Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 28 years. She lives in Newhall.

 

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

9 Comments

  1. Eric says:

    I have used metal gopher traps with much success. You must use 2 at a time. Probe the ground around the dirt mound to find the tunnel. I use a short piece of rebar available at Home Depot or Lowes. Get a spade a spade and dig and expose the tunnel. Place the traps end to end in the tunnel so the gopher can be trapped no matter which way he/she travels in the tunnel. Cover the exposed tunnel. I use string attached to the rebar that I leave above ground and attached the other end of the string to the traps in case the gopher runs off inside the tunnel. The next day you will have a non-poisoned gopher funeral and say au revoir, gophair.

  2. Norberto Yolanda Montoya

  3. As someone who as tried everything, I recently read they don’t like Epsom salt. I put a few tablespoons down each fresh hole I discovered one morning and I haven’t had a new hole in almost 7 weeks.. I think it works ☺️

  4. I am a professional Gopher killer! I handle 2 local golf courses and many clients in SCV call me if you want these pest gone! All Pro Pest Control 661-298-2200

  5. Lately its been ground squirrels that have been awful, not gophers.

  6. Juicy fruit gum, chewed, dropped down the holes…it’s an old southern remedy, and it works.

  7. Liza Tyra Liza Tyra says:

    Hot peppers in the holes worked for us. The ticked off gopher even threw the pepper out of the hole and filled the hole in before he left

  8. i’ve used fox urine before, and it seemed to help. it comes as a powder. I’ve also used those noise emitting poles that you stick in the ground in various spots, and they were helping as well, but you have to remember to replace the batteries.

  9. Melissa says:

    Love your column, always interesting and informative.
    We live on 10 + acres in Leona Valley, this area is like heaven for gophers. Our alluvial soil is mostly decomposed granite, and the unused part of our land is covered in season with foxtails. The gophers like to eat the tiny seed in each of the tails, and use the other parts of the plant to line their nests.
    A few years back, in digging out a gopher hole, a tiny young gopher found himself above ground with no place to hide.
    My husband, wearing heavy gloves gently scooped him up and put him in a bucket of dirt. Immediately he started to dig out a burrow for himself.
    Just to see what would happen, Jerry put the gopher which he named Murray into a 50-gallon plastic drum with about a third of the drum filled with soil. Over the next two and a half years Murray happily lived in the drum, being hand fed foxtails, broken walnuts from our trees, even a baby carrot each day.
    Everyone that visited was proudly shown our ‘pet’ gopher, most had never seen one before, and Murray always popped up to see if a treat was forthcoming when the plank which served as a lid was lifted.
    Sadly the experiment ended when water leaked into the barrel during a rainstorm and went unnoticed. Apparently that caused the soil to cool too much, and the overnight snow made it so cold that poor Murray expired. We were both so sad, but glad that we had the opportunity to know up close and personal, one of God’s seldom seen creatures.

Leave a Comment


Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
RECENT COMMENTARY
Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
It makes good sense to review your coverage each year. Make sure your plan still is a good fit for you in terms of cost, coverage, and quality.
Thursday, Oct 4, 2018
Local entrepreneurs, industry leaders and business owners are looking for employees who can communicate clearly, whether writing or speaking; effectively collaborate on teams; and quickly make decisions that benefit both the company and its customers.
Tuesday, Oct 2, 2018
Canyon Country is known as a major residential area in our City, as well as a popular commercial and retail spot.
Monday, Oct 1, 2018
In her message for October 2018, Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste invites the community to the annual State of the City Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018
Not being able to record and document what Knight and Hill stated during the debate makes it difficult for our community to hold both of them accountable to what they say.
Friday, Sep 14, 2018
Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage have different benefits and costs that you should consider based on your personal needs. Medicare open enrollment season runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, and it’s a good idea to know how the two types of Medicare work before you select one.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
2007 - Buckweed fire chars 38,000 acres, destroys 21 homes in Canyon Country and Agua Dulce [story]
1873 - Santa Barbara lawyers Charles Fernald and J.T. Richards purchase Rancho San Francisco for $33,000 (75 cents an acre) in a sheriff's sale [story]
The annual "Fun in the Sun" Chili Cook-Off staged by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to benefit the Special Olympics is set for Saturday, Oct. 20 from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. at the Jack Bones Equestrian Center in Castaic.
Oct. 20: LASD ‘Fun in the Sun’ Chili Cook-Off to Benefit Special Olympics
College of the Canyons administrators alerted students and faculty Friday morning to a report of an unwanted sexual encounter Thursday in a COC restroom.
Unwanted Sexual Encounter Reported at COC
Brian O’Connor has been promoted to vice president brand and corporate communication at Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruises.
Princess Cruises Ups O’Connor to VP Brand, Corporate Communications
Santa Clarita City Councilmembers on Tuesday night will discuss how to respond to county planners' request that developers consider a homeless shelter in Phase II of the proposed Tesoro del Valle housing project just north of city limits.
Oct. 23: City to Weigh Response to County Idea for Tesoro Homeless Shelter
The Santa Clarita City Council will hold its next meetings at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
Oct. 23: Santa Clarita City Council Regular, Special Meetings
The National Weather Service issued an urgent red flag warning at 3 p.m. Friday that will remain in effect in the Santa Clarita Valley until 10 p.m. due to gusty Santa Ana wind and low humidity.
Red Flag Warning Flies Till 10 Friday Night
The registration deadline to vote in the Nov. 6 General Election is Monday, Oct. 22, at 11:59 p.m.
Oct 22: Last Day to Register to Vote in Nov. 6 Election
In less than three weeks, California’s 19 million voters will decide a slate of midterm ballot measures aimed at easing the state’s affordable housing crisis, but not all initiatives may bring residents the relief they seek.
State Voters Eye Ballot Measures for Solutions to Housing Crisis
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Oct. 23, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Oct. 23: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
Lane closures on Soledad Canyon Road due to film-related activity near the Saugus Speedway will begin at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and end at approximately 4 a.m. Wednesday, according to an alert from the city of Santa Clarita.
Lane Closures on Soledad for Filming Set for Tuesday Night
Night work on the city of Santa Clarita's Sierra Highway pedestrian bridge project will take place at the construction site on Sierra Highway north of Golden Valley Road on Tuesday, Oct. 23, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Oct. 23: Night Work on New Sierra Highway Pedestrian Bridge
East LA College will visit Cougar Stadium Saturday night, and all SCV youth football and cheer teams — Santa Clarita Cowboys, Grizzlies, Spartans, Vikings, Warriors, Wildcats and teams from other parks and recreation programs — are invited to attend the game free of charge when wearing a school jersey or uniform.
COC Invites SCV Youth Football, Cheer Programs to Saturday’s Game
To increase awareness about school bus safety among motorists, parents, teachers and students, the California Highway Patrol will observe National School Bus Safety Week Oct. 22-26.
Oct. 22-26: CHP Rides with School Bus Safety Week
Oct. 21-27 is National Teen Driver Safety Week, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department wants to remind parents and guardians the importance of talking to their teen drivers about new responsibilities and rules that come with operating a vehicle.
Oct. 21-27: LASD Rolls with National Teen Driver Safety Week
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies arrested a Long Beach man on multiple charges for weapons and drugs earlier this week, according to officials.
SCV Deputies Arrest Long Beach Man in Gorman on Multiple Charges
1945 - Acton Hotel, est. 1890, burns down; arson is suspected [story]
The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation presents its latest “Recreation After Dark” event, “Goin’ Country at Hart.”
Oct. 19: Goin’ Country at Hart to Feature Moldy Marvin, Highway 138
ARCADIA, Calif. — On Wednesday, Jerry Perez officially reported to the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, where he will serve as the new Forest Supervisor, replacing Jeff Vail, who accepted the position of deputy director for Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources in the Forest Service’s Washington Office.
New Angeles National Forest Supervisor Excited About New Position
Le Chene French Cuisine has announced that they will be hosting two special events coming to you in November.
Le Chene Invites Residents to November Celebrations
The Valencia High School Marching Band and Color Guard held their first major fundraising event for their band season.
Valencia High School Marching Band Appreciates Support from Community
The city of Santa Clarita will present three music-related sessions at the 2018 Arts Symposium at The Centre on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Oct. 20: Art Symposium to Stage 3 Music Sessions
It makes good sense to review your coverage each year. Make sure your plan still is a good fit for you in terms of cost, coverage, and quality.
How to Shop for Medicare Plans | Commentary by Greg Dill
StarKist Co. has agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of packaged seafood sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
StarKist Pleads Guilty to Price Fixing
The First Presbyterian Church of Newhall will be performing “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress.”
Newhall Church to Present ‘The Green Velvet Christmas Dress’
Decorated with fun embellishments such as puffy paint, tulle fabric, feathers and even bubble wrap, artist Georgette Arison’s mixed-media art in “Dressing Up is Fun,” the newest art exhibit at the Newhall Community Center, uses unconventional methods to showcase costume design.
‘Dressing Up is Fun’ Exhibit Now Showcasing at Newhall Community Center
Celebrating its 5th anniversary this year, the Santa Clarita Oktoberfest is a Southern California twist on the original Oktoberfest held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.
Oct. 19, 20: Santa Clarita Oktoberfest
College of the Canyons has been ranked No. 29 by the Hispanic Outlook on Education Magazine’s Top 100 colleges and universities list for graduating Hispanic students.
Hispanic Outlook Ranks COC No. 29 on Top 100 List
Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, a United States Air Force Thunderbirds pilot and a graduate of Saugus High School who died on April 4 during a routine aerial training flight in the Nevada Test and Training Range, lost consciousness before the fatal crash, according to a report released by the Air Force.
Report: Santa Clarita Thunderbirds Pilot Lost Consciousness Before Crash
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to close 62 campground pit toilets, considered to be large capacity cesspools, at seven national forests across California.
Forest Service Forced to Close Cesspools in State’s National Forests
The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations (LACCHR) released its annual account Wednesday of hate crimes reported throughout Los Angeles County in 2017.
LA County Hate Crimes Continue to Rise
Sheriff Jim McDonnell has named Sergio Perez, a Los Angeles native, as his Constitutional Policing Advisor to assist the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in sustaining reform and advancing justice for the diverse communities we serve.
LASD Names New Constitutional Policing Adviser
Every year, department members who perform acts of great courage and heroism, who go above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of others while placing their own lives at risk, are honored and recognized at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Medal of Valor Awards Ceremony.
LASD Department Members, Private Citizens Recognized at Award Ceremony
1876 - Southern Pacific begins subdividing town of Newhall (original location at Bouquet Junction) [story]
The Probation Reform and Implementation Team met Wednesday to discuss a new mission and vision for the nation’s largest Probation Department, and consider an organizational structure that supports separate adult and juvenile probation operations in Los Angeles County.
County Officials Weigh Juvenile, Adult Probation Reform