These fuzzy creatures can make short work of your lawn and garden if you're not careful.

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Gophers are rodents typically found in the Midwest and Western regions of the United States, explains Natasha Nicholes, the Master Urban Farmer and Executive Director at We Sow We Grow Project, but she adds that these burrowing animals will thrive just about anywhere if the soil is loose and sandy. "They are often referred to as pocket gophers, because of the cheek pockets they use to carry food back to their burrows; they are larder animals (animals that store food for winter)." While these cute critters might be fun to look at, they can actually wreak havoc on your garden. Here's what you should do if you spot a gopher in your yard.

Gopher Signs

If you see dirt mounds shaped like horseshoes or crescents when viewed from above—and that seemingly pop up overnight—Nicholes says you're likely dealing with a gopher. "They move through raised tunnels in the ground," she explains, "which are intricate and allow the gophers to go to and fro without being seen by foxes or humans." Their burrow's opening will likely have the most soil on or around it, due to the gopher kicking it out of the hole, she adds: "Be careful around those mounds, because they can often be ankle deep and the cause of fractured or sprained limbs."

gopher coming out of hole
Credit: Getty Images

Other Pests

Gophers aren't the only critters that can damage your yard. Moles and groundhogs also create problems for home gardeners, says Nicholes. If you think you're dealing with something other than a gopher, you should be able to identify it by the type of system it uses to travel around. For example, mole mounds are shaped like volcanoes, and are more likely to damage your grass; groundhogs, on the other hand, will create holes the size of softballs. "You'll notice plenty of holes in your backyard because their tunnel system isn't as connected as a gopher or mole's is, and they often keep their dens hidden from sight," she explains. "Groundhogs do far more damage to gardens than gophers, because they are consumers of almost everything."

Stop the Digging

The best way to deal with a gopher? Install a barrier, Nicholes explains. "This includes growing your food in containers, like raised beds or tower gardens," she offers. If those methods aren't options, lay down wire mesh before applying enough soil to grow your produce; this prevents gophers from digging under your plant and disrupting its root system. "This isn't as efficient as container gardening, though, as it takes quite a bit more time for application and a bit of garden modification," she says.

Keep Gophers Out

If you want your in-resident gophers gone for good, there are a few humane ways to send them packing. "You can trap and release them to animal control or use predator urine to keep them at bay," Nicholes shares. "Both methods are often sold at garden centers and can be placed around your garden in places you may see gopher activity." Additionally, you can also grow plants with strong scents; these often irritate gophers. "Some gardeners even go as far as applying coffee grounds, peppermint oil, or other strong-smelling items on the ground," she says. But remember: If you're thinking about growing mint, be prepared for it to spread. Mint is a very aggressive grower when left unchecked, Nicoles explains.

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