Terror below!

It’s that time of year: the gophers have invaded, and are tearing up our lawn. Mounds of dirt have erupted everywhere! We decided we had to do something, so we reluctantly purchased a trap. An evil, lethal, gopher-killing trap. We put it out last night, and this morning…it had sprung.

I had expected something cute and adorable — something like a large mouse or vole. Instead, when I pulled that snare out, it brought with it a grey behemoth, almost as long as my forearm, with huge curved claws and terrifying yellow incisors. Kinda like this:

AAAAIEEE! I felt bad about killing it, but the neighbors would not have been happy if we were ground zero for a lawn-wrecking plague. Now I’m a little nervous walking around in my yard, with angry vengeful monsters burrowing invisibly beneath my feet.


  1. says

    I have a friend who is a farmer. A city slicker decided to move to the country and bought the property next door. Critters started eating his vegetable garden so he got a have a heart trap (non-lethal), and put a piece of broccoli in it. Next morning, there was a gopher in it, so the city slicker came over and asked Festus to shoot it for him. He didn’t have the heart to do it. So Festus shot the gopher, and the guy threw the bloody piece of broccoli back in the trap. Next day, there’s a coon, so the guy comes over and asks Festus to shoot it for him. Okay, he does it one more time. Third day, the guy comes over again and Festus says hell no, shoot your own critters. So, the guy couldn’t use a lethal trap, and he couldn’t shoot the critters, but he could ask the neighbor to do it. People are weird.

  2. says

    You need to encourage some corn snakes or other rat snakes to hang out. You wouldn’t have moles for long. It’s odd, but living rural, I’ve never had a mole problem.

  3. eveningchaos says

    I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand at a night market and a vendor was selling Richardson Ground Squirrels as exotic pets. They were so fat and spoiled. Maybe you could set up a exotic pet business and ship the little guys over to SE Asia instead of murdering them, PZ. Just wondering how long before they get loose in Thailand and start to dig up the Thai countryside. Maybe the Cobras will eat them?

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 Caine
    PZ should let loose the Cat from Hell. Of course, then PZ could not go in the yard either.

  5. says

    gophers have invaded

    Damned gophers, not respecting property rights.

    Also, lawns are terrible things. They should all be torn up and left to nature.

  6. archangelospumoni says

    Buy some Cheerios–you’re gonna need a truckload. Sell ’em to Drumpfh voters as “doughnut seeds.”

    With the profits you can do whatever gopher plan you dream up.

  7. davidc1 says

    Only way to deal with a gopher .
    “Blow His Bloody Head Off ”

    With apologies to Jasper Carott .

  8. kestrel says

    Gophers. Hate them. The scourge of my garden. If it was not for the coyotes, our entire house would sink into a giant gopher burrow. As it is I can hardly walk to the barn without nearly breaking my knee sinking into a gopher burrow; hurts like crazy to just suddenly have your heel sink straight down into a hole, bending your knee backwards.

    Snakes are good; I am always on the look out for gopher snakes trying to cross the road, and bring them home with me if I can (no corn snakes here, alas). The amount of traps I’d have to purchase is really daunting. We have considered starting a rumor that the bile duct of the western pocket gopher is a powerful aphrodisiac, and then selling trapping permits.

    Well done on getting this one; I hope that’s the end of the issue!

  9. DonDueed says

    Check me if I’m wrong PZ, but if you kill all the golfers, they’re gonna lock you up and throw away the key.

  10. weylguy says

    “Hey you guys, the Vengeful Lawn God got Nippers last night near the carrot patch! Have a care!”

    What we can expect when gophers invent religion.

  11. Oggie. says

    Figure out a way to sexually arouse the gophers. Then, take all the gopher wood and build an ark. Put all the gophers on the ark and wave to them as they sail off into the sunset. Which would put them in North Dakota.

    Okay, it needs some work.

  12. says

    I would guess the pic is a nutria.
    No gophers here. Every winter a mole makes a burrow or two, every spring Ghengis Khan and his hordes, aka my children chase it out.
    Thankfully the 60+ couple two houses up have not yet started their “ultrasound mole thingy” that is probably not much a deterrent to moles but drives me MAD

  13. anchor says

    Based on PZ’s description of its size and them incisors, that wasn’t like any gopher I’ve seen. My first thought was that it was a woodchuck (or ‘groundhog’) or possibly a muskrat. Lot’s of them roundabouts here. Cervantes could be right in identifying it as a coypu, except they’re much larger (almost like mini beavers or giant muskrats which they much resemble) but I thought their range was confined farther south, especially along the Mississippi. Muskrat and coypus are semi-aquatic critters and like to hang around riverine areas; woodchucks and gophers not so much. I think its probably a woodchuck. Almost certainly not a gopher, which are typically only 6 or 8 inches length.

    Poor thing. Minding its business trying to make a living and gets whacked for its trouble. What a world, what a world…

  14. Larry says

    Every winter a mole makes a burrow or two, every spring Ghengis Khan and his hordes, aka my children chase it out.

    Now that’s just not right! Under-feeding your children to keep ’em skinny enough to crawl through mole tunnels.

  15. unclefrogy says

    really interesting beasts pocket gophers. you can see in the picture two of the significant characteristics the large incisors that stick out of the mouth and the external cheek pouches that give them their name, I do not know of any other animal that has them. They like lawns seem to prefer turf forming grass. man o man can they dig. I had one in a steel 5 gal bucket full of dirt did not know what to do with him. he would dig and dig around the bottom of the can until it was just a steel sleeve over the steel .bottom so i could not even move it do not remember what happened to him. their eyes nose and ears are all on the same plane of their head like a hippo so they can see above the surface of the ground with out poking their head up very high.

    uncle frogy

  16. gmcard says

    Pretty sure a biologist living in the Gopher State, working for a state university system where the flagship school has a gopher mascot, can correctly identify a Plains Pocket Gopher. Miserable damn rodents.

  17. hemidactylus says

    You’re gonna write about the pocket gophers in your new book right, since they are very interesting from an evodevo stance?

  18. Tethys says

    I saw plenty of ground squirrels out on the prairie (which are also called gophers) but the pocket gophers are rarely seen, unlike their extensive burrows and the large piles of soil. Plants disappearing without a trace is another sure sign of a pocket gopher infestation. The first time my cats caught a pocket gopher on the eastern, woodland side of Minnesota I was shocked by it’s large size (smallish guinea pig) , giant beaver teeth, and that it was almost black instead of the brown/tan pelt of the one that PZ caught.

  19. birgerjohansson says

    Introduce an appropriate predator into the system. Very big spider?

  20. johnhodges says

    Get a children’s wading pool and fill it with beer. The moles will climb into it and drown.

  21. Onamission5 says

    I see a few recent commenters have already beat me to it, but I’ll post a link for the unitiated: pocket gopher. Is different from the ground squirrel @chigau’s link, although they both have burrowing habits and are both often called “gopher,” which is probably the source of some confusion. The individual PZ trapped is likely a plains pocket gopher.

  22. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin confirms that doesn’t appear to be any known species of cheese. She points out it resembles several of the tamer sort of wild MUSHROOMS!, yawning, just before they go to sleep after a long dance on(and at) the local bar and overdosing on olives & spiced toenails (Hint: Never wear open-toed sandals to a bar frequented by the tamer sort of wild MUSHROOMS!).