Let’s play “name that dirt pile” Gopher or Mole?

Let’s play “name that dirt pile” Gopher or Mole?

Many folks can’t tell them apart, but when it comes to the health of your plants, knowing if it is a gopher or mole makes all the difference.

We get calls every day here in the Bay Area for gopher control, but about 50% of the time that “gopher attack” is really a mole.


Why does this matter? Who should care? Aren’t they essentially the same?

I’ll take those questions on here, and then maybe you will decide of knowing if it is a gopher or mole will matter to you.

1. Why does it matter to determine of the thing causing dirt piles in the lawn is  gopher or mole? Well, it matters if you are worried about your pants being eaten. Moles do not eat plants, they eat worms and bugs. They make piles of soil a lot like a gopher’s because thats how any burrowing animal needs to get rid of the soil in its tunnels.  If the pike is fan shaped or kidney bean shaped, then its a gopher and you should worry about loosing plants.  If the piles in the lawn or landscape are a big nuisance to you, then it really doesn’t matter if its gopher or mole. You just want the animal gone.

2. Who should care? You should care if the animal is gopher or mole if you are taking care of a native garden. While gophers and moles are both native, and play an important role in the ecosystem, a gopher will cause damage to the plants in the garden faster than the gardener can repair them. Aesthetics is not an issue for the wilderness, but it is in a botanical garden. Moles on the other hand do not pose a significant risk to established plants, and actually improve soil aeration as they search out grubs and worms. In this cans you may like to know if it is gopher or mole because you would likely leave the moles be but trap gophers.

3. Aren’t they essentially the same?   By now you have a good understanding of whether the piles were caused by gopher or mole from reading 1 & 2 above, but here are a few key differences that separate gopher from mole. Moles are blind, gophers can see. Moles have small file-like teeth and gophers have very sharp large teeth (think beaver) . Moles have huge fore claws that look like big pink human’s hands. Gophers have smaller feet with long fine claws.   Moles are smaller and more slender than gophers. Their fur is more dense and is very fine. Both gophers and moles make piles but the piles look subtly different, except in the case of the classic “molehill” which can be seen running on for many feet. This is one of the two soil disturbances that a mole makes.

gopher or mole
Can you tell if this is gopher or mole?