So I live in a semi-rural area in the Willamette Valley.

I’m not on a farm by any means but there is a barbed wire fence across the street. We’re on a septic tank but still connected to city water if you get my drift. Anyway, it’s out there far enough that we get all sorts of critters, way more than I was used to as an “in-town apartment dweller”.  Squirrel, raccoon, rabbits, skunks, sometimes a turkey, and there’s even the occasional cougar sighting in the neighborhood. These things are all well and good. They don’t bother me, I don’t bother them. I mean sometimes at night when I take out the trash I can smell that skunk real strong, and I’m just walking on eggshells hoping that I don’t startle it and get a face full of stink.

Live and let live is my outlook on things when I’m off duty. My fiancé always gives me a hard time when I grab spiders in the house with a napkin or just in my hand and let them outside instead of killing them. “Some Exterminator!” she’ll say jokingly, or something to that effect. Then I’ll make a joke about easing the burden of the countless deaths that already weigh on my soul. Then we will laugh awkwardly, both now contemplating the choices we have made and how those choices may influence the un-knowable “After” that all things arrive to.

Anyways…that’s where I was in May of 2023 when we decided to put in the garden. Day after Mother’s Day if I recall correctly. Nothing crazy, tomatoes, peppers, squash, onions, beets, carrots, peas, etc. your typical garden fare. As is typical my dog, Cleo, was back there hanging out with me. All up in my business and getting in the way with an enthusiasm befitting such a “good girl”.

I think it was when I was trimming back the mint patch that I realized she wasn’t with me anymore. I stood up from my work and looked around for her.

We have a decent size backyard. It has a lot of lawn and flowerbeds and the garden and the like. It takes a lot of upkeep and with that upkeep comes a ton of excess organic material in the form of grass clippings, leaves, weeds, you get the picture. Like any sane gardener who doesn’t mind a little mess, we have that one corner that stays a little wild and that’s where the compost pile is.

On this occasion that’s also where Cleo was, standing still, staring intently at the ground. I called out to her, no reaction. I did the whistle thing…nothing. So, I decided to walk over and see what she was looking at. (Honestly, it’s not that unusual. Cleo gets obsessed about the weirdest things.) and this is what I saw.



Just let me say that although it doesn’t really come across in the picture her intensity was palpable. I had to touch her to break the spell. There in the background, you can see what she was staring at. Mounds of dirt with little holes in them. I was pretty sure what I was dealing with, but my experience is primarily insect control, so I sent a picture to Greg, Good Earth’s Wildlife Director, for confirmation. He confirmed my fears. With the crescent shape of the mounds, the dry, rocky consistency of the soil, these are certainly gopher mounds.

Gophers, or, the Pocket Gopher, are a subterranean, tunneling rodent of the family Geomyidae. They are medium size, (smaller than a rat, bigger than a mouse) stocky, with small eyes and a short tail that they use to navigate when they are moving backward through their tunnels. They get their name from the large, fur-lined cheek pouches that extend almost back to their shoulders. They use these “pockets” to carry food that they hoard in their larder.

Speaking of their food, that’s what the biggest problem is when it comes to my yard. Unlike moles, (a topic for another time) gophers are herbivores. They tunnel around just under the surface feasting on the tender roots of the plants above, whereupon the plants die off leaving the surface a dry, denuded, dustbowl. That’s exactly the opposite of what I want in my vegetable garden. But, like I said at the beginning, live and let live. Besides, this is the wild part of the yard and it’s at least 60 feet away from the cucumbers. No big deal. Right?

Smash cut, two weeks later. My yard is starting to look like an artillery range. Fresh gopher mounds every morning and Cleo’s still obsessed. She keeps digging at the mounds and getting dirty. They are now less than 30 feet away from the garden. It’s time to start taking measures, so I reach out to our Home Services manager Ben. Ben tells me that because of their larger size gophers need the soil on the drier, rockier side for stability, (less cave-ins and what-not) and that sometimes if you irrigate the area well the gophers will move to more favorable conditions.

Seemed simple enough. I set up my sprinkler and got a good soak on the ground. I then kept up with it by watering every few days. The grass looked great if you ignored the dirt mounds that continued to pop up pretty much every day. Cleo traded her paw dirt for paw mud and then it happened. Mounds started popping up in my vegetable garden like a nascent Pacific island chain.

That was it. These gophers have crossed a line. I’m a professional pest control technician. I have an actual license to kill.

I went back to our wildlife division and told them I was done messing around and to give me the most effective hardware they had. They loaded up my truck with the Burrow X and I brought it home. The Burrow X (originally Gopher X, which I feel describes its purpose much better) is a beautifully simple machine that is basically a 4-stroke lawnmower engine with its exhaust routed into a rubber hose. There’s an added oil burner in the line that allows you to see the exhaust and where it is going. This is all mounted to a rolling dolly for maximum portability.

Using the Burrow X is a straight forward process. Go to the gopher mounds, clear out the tunnel, insert hose into tunnel, add oil and fire her up. Cleo watched me digging out those holes like I’d lost my mind, or maybe she was right all along and she was a human. I watched as smoke started popping out of the gopher mounds yards away. I’d let it run a while and then move on to a mound that wasn’t smoking until everything was covered. Then I knocked down all the mounds, put the machine away, and then it was time to wait and see if I had been thorough enough.

It’s been two weeks since the reckoning and I haven’t gotten any more mounds. I think It’s ok to assume that I’m gopher free at this point. I wish I had been more proactive and done it before they did so much damage but what’s done is done. If you ever find yourself in a similar battle with Gophers, I’d advise going this route: Before you start buying and dealing with messy traps, or running up your water bill, give us a call and we can get one of our wildlife specialists on the case. They can offer you solutions that will take the hassle off your to-do list and you can get back to enjoying your summer!

Officer in Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service,


Adam Hiddleson is an Associated Certified Entomologist (ACE) and serves as Technical Director for Good Earth Pest Company



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