I have a good size garden and at first we started seeing large bites out of our tomatoes. Now we have tons of mounds of very soft earth and something ate our pumpkin from underneath the ground. They ate almost all of it. Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated. We have dogs and cats and I also do not like to kill anything. I don't think asking them to stop will help either.
Josephine County Oregon
There are only a few pests that create mounds. Two of the most common mound builders are moles and gophers.
When a gopher creates a mound, it will usually push the dirt out in a fan pattern. If you're seeing conical mounds in your yard, it is more likely that you're dealing with a mole problem.
Gophers often plug their tunnel entry holes. These plugs can usually be seen sitting on top of a mound. Look closely and see if the mounds in your yard have plugs.
The dirt of a gopher mound is going to be fine. Gophers break the soil up as they dig it up and push it out. Moles tend to leave clumps. If you can detect clumps in the mounds, you probably have a mole issue.
Gophers tend to create several holes that are near each other. If you're finding groups of holes, you probably have a gopher. If you have 6 or more feet between the holes, a mole is probably to blame.
If you use a portion of your property to grow food, you could attract gophers. While a gopher will eat earthworms like a mole, which subsists on protein, it also enjoys many plants, fruits and vegetables. Plant damage may be the sign that you're dealing with a gopher problem, not a mole problem.
The best thing to do is act swiftly, using one of the following three methods:
Trapping is an effective, nontoxic control method on small acreages. The most common type of gopher trap is the U-shaped, spring-type Macabee trap. Find the main runway of the tunnel by poking around in the fresh mounds. You know you have found the main runway when the probe sinks 4 to 12 inches into the ground. It is important to locate the main runway; gophers may not return to lateral tunnels for some time. It is important to locate the main runway; gophers may not return to lateral tunnels for some time. Dig an opening into the tunnel and place two traps. Attach a wire to each and anchor with a flag for relocation. Leave the hole open. The gopher will return when he senses his burrow has been disturbed. When he comes back to cover the hole, the gopher will trip the trap. The best time to trap is in the fall and spring when gophers are most active. Check traps often and reset when necessary. If you do not catch a gopher within a few days, move the trap to a different location.
Repel the gopher by placing castor oil pellets, peppermint oil, and fabric softener sheets in the burrows nearest your home.
As a last resort, poison the gopher with toxic pellets featuring zinc phosphide.
There are several other methods for controlling gophers, including flood irrigating, exclusion, habitat modification and tunnel blasting. Trapping and baiting are the most common.
Check out this great publication for more information:
Hope this helps!