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Do Gophers Eat Meat – Do They eat Mice?

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Gophers are omnivores but mostly herbivores. They eat plants, such as flowers, roots, and tubers. But gophers also enjoy grasses, fruits, and grains. Gophers don’t generally eat animals unless they need to survive in extreme conditions or if they are starving.

So, gophers are mainly herbivores that do to a lesser extent prey on smaller animals such as snails, earthworms, and other insects but only rarely eggs and smaller mammals. They will not be able to kill larger creatures like chickens or snakes and gophers are usually not aggressive towards humans or pets.

I have precious written a range of articles on groundhogs, and how they, depending on the season, eat insects as well as many garden plants, including flowers, tomatoes, onions, and numerous fruits.

Just like their bigger cousins the groundhogs or the prairie dog, gophers are mainly herbivores but the smallest of the three!

Whereas prairie dogs and groundhogs do eat animals if given the chance, the gopher is somewhat more reluctant, perhaps due to its smaller, less intimidating, size.

Whereas the groundhogs and gophers are in the same order (Rodentia – also known as rodents) making them evolutionary cousins, rather than siblings, gophers are more closely related to prairie dogs that belong to the same family (Sciuridae). Interestingly, squirrels do also belong to this family!

However, groundhogs are known to eat a larger proportion of insects than gophers likely to support their larger body size and energy requirements.  

Gopher compared to a prairie dog and a groundhog. Gophers are smaller than the prairie dog that is smaller than the groundhog. Due to the small size of the gopher, it has limited options in terms of animal prey, whereas the groundhogs have a more varied diet.

Otherwise, groundhogs and gophers both have very similar diets; the only difference being that the groundhog will eat more animal-derived foods and gophers will tend to eat more hard plant matter like roots.  

Are gophers dangerous?

Because gophers are so small, generally weighing less than 2 lbs, they are no threat to humans or their pets.

They spend most of their time in the tunnels they dig, and would rather hide away than approach bigger animals as they are shy by nature.

Most cats and dogs are bigger than even the biggest gophers and will scare away the gopher if encountered in your backyard.

The biggest danger imposed by gophers may be through their potential as disease carriers as they can potentially spread pathogens such as plague, monkeypox, and rabies.

So we do recommend using thick gloves when handling gophers directly e.g. when caught in a live trap.

However, no case of disease transferred by a gopher to a human has been recorded to date, so the risk is very small.

Do Gophers Eat Snakes?

Snakes will eat gophers but the opposite isn’t true!

Snakes are too big to be preyed upon by gophers so gophers will generally leave snakes alone, even smaller ones.

Snakes are predators of gophers and will be able to subdue smaller rodents if they pose an immediate threat or are too slow to escape.

Snakes, such as the gopher snake will eat gophers – that’s how the snake got its name! And gophers, like other rodents having adapted to predation by snakes, are very afraid of snakes.

The gopher snake is a feared predator of the gopher!

Gophers have been known to kill prey that is slower than them, such as snails.

Do Gophers Eat Chickens?

No, although they may break into a chicken enclosure to eat the chicken feed.

Gophers are too small and slow for chickens to be preyed upon by them. Chickens are not afraid of gophers and gophers are not afraid of chickens.

Chicken feed is usually grains that are high in protein, which attract gophers. Although gophers are herbivores and they do not like to eat meat, they will eat the food of meat-eating animals if it presents itself to them.

Do Gophers Eat Mice?

No, they do not eat mice. Only very rarely will they prey on young mice (venturing into their tunnels) if desperate for food, but they do not seek them out.  

Mice and gophers are cousins which you might have guessed as they look like gophers but are smaller and with longer tails. In nature, closely related species do not usually prey on its other – gophers and mice are no exception.

Do Gophers Eat Rats?

No, gophers do not eat rats at all. Rats are too big to eat as a prey item for gophers.

Rats are rodents and gophers are too, and they can reach similar sizes and weight.

However, rats have sharp claws and are more aggressive than gophers, which makes gophers afraid of rats rather than the other way around!

Do Gophers Eat Grasshoppers?

Rarely. Grasshoppers can get quite large and are fast. In Extreme conditions, gophers may eat insects to survive. But there has been an occasion where a gopher was observed catching smaller grasshoppers while eating grass. Because grasshoppers can fly, it is not easy for gophers to catch them.

Do Gophers Eat Caterpillars?

Occasionally, caterpillars are soft-bodied so they are not a hard prey item for gophers to eat.

Caterpillars may be easier prey than grasshoppers; however, many caterpillars have toxic bristles/hairs so eating them may be unpleasant for the gopher, creating feedback in the gopher’s brain to avoid caterpillars.

The toxins in these insects are said to taste bitter at best and cause berating problems or death at worst.

Do Gophers Eat Worms?

Yes, and they may be the animal most eaten by gophers. Earthworms are great sources of nutrition for gophers to eat as a staple food source. They will often encounter earthworms while digging, making it an ideal source of protein for gophers.

Do Gophers Eat Snails?

Yes! Snails are generally slow so they would be easy prey for gophers to eat. As long as the snail doesn’t move quickly or retract into its shell, a gopher may easily lay a trap and catch a snail.

Although gophers have sharp teeth, they are mostly used to chew through fibrous plant materials rather than other animals.

However, snails have tough shells so they are not a normal food source as the gopher has a hard time breaking the shell of snails. Slugs on the other hand, are easier prey for gophers.

Do Gophers Eat Birds?

No, although gophers have been observed climbing up trees to eat smaller birds’ eggs. It cannot feed on birds, even smaller ones like the robin.

 They cannot eat birds since they fly away when approached by gophers and gophers are more scared of larger birds than the birds are of them.

Do Gophers Eat Eggs?

Smaller eggs, maybe. Gophers can’t do much damage to an adult bird but they will eat its eggs if the opportunity presents itself.

The only reason gophers would only feed on small eggs is because they are easier to carry in their mouths without hurting themselves or have less chance of being hurt by a larger egg. Bigger eggs like hens eggs are harder to carry and not often eaten by gophers.

Would Gophers Eat Each Other?

Generally, no, there are no observations recorded of cannibalism among gophers.

Gophers are solitary animals and do not form packs like coyotes or prairie dogs and do not often meet unless it is mating season.

They will fight each other during mating where males will fight other male gophers to mate with a female. But they will never eat their own kind.

Gophers fighting over territories or mates. Usually not fatal and the winner never eats the loser.

If you are bothered by gophers in your backyard, check out this list of 10 effective ways to keep them out!
See my favorite three options below.

Here are a few of my favorite ways of keeping gophers out:

How To Keep Groundhogs Out Of Your Yard!

There are several things that can be done to prevent groundhogs from digging and eating stuff in your backyard. I will list some of the strategies below.

Also, see my recent post if you want a full list of my favorite methods to keep groundhogs and gophers away!

1. Using ultrasonic sound

Gophers, like other pest mammals that may invade your garden, tend to have very good hearing. This means that loud or consistent noises will scare them away or at least shorten their visits.

Check out my full buying guide for these ingenious ultrasonic repeller devices here!

One of my favorite technologies to keep pests away from my backyard is these cool solar-powered ultrasonic sound emitters that you can buy right from Amazon! In my experience, they really work, and the solar panels on top save you the time and money of changing batteries all the time.  

My favorite ultrasonic emitters. Click to read more at Amazon.

They will also work against rodents like gophers, mice, and rats!

2. Sprinkling natural repellents

Gophers may be scared off by using natural scents such as coyote urine or predator scents.

They may also cause them to leave if there is a combination of sounds being played from a radio. The sounds include the sound of barking dogs and coyotes.

You can sprinkle dog hair, cayenne pepper or strong enteric oils and other natural repellents around the garden to keep the groundhogs away.

See my complete list of humane ways to keep groundhogs away from your yard for more tips and tricks!

3. Fencing around the garden

You can also fence around your garden to keep gophers from entering the garden. It should be at least 3 feet deep and have a double row of fencing.

A good deep (underground) fence will keep groundhogs out!

Groundhogs are good diggers so it has to go underground or they may find a way into the garden even with the fences in place!

4. Using live traps

You can use a live trap to capture gophers and move them to another area. Live trapping is currently the most humane way of groundhog control. Once you have removed all groundhogs from an area, it is important to ensure that they do not come back by using fencing or other barriers to block access.

You can also just buy a live trap, as the sturdy metal ones shown here:

A live groundhog trap is a humane way to get permanently rid of gophers in your yard.

A version with thick gloves for safe handling.

To lure the groundhogs in, you can use one of the numerous favorite foods of groundhogs or an optimized extra attractive formula like this one to make the catch even quicker!

5. Using natural pesticides

There are pesticides or rodent toxins that can be used to kill groundhogs on your property. These may also affect other animals in the area so it is important to ensure that they are only sprayed on the targeted plants.

I do not recommend these, as I prefer more humane ways as described here. Also, anything that kills an animal will also harm humans to some degree, so go for a repellant rather than a toxin if you go the chemical route!

6. Using Scarecrows

You can use a scarecrow in your garden to keep groundhogs away. Groundhogs are afraid of novelty so time-sensitive or motion-activated scarecrows may also be effective in keeping them out of the garden.

Owls will scare most rodents and intimidate larger intruders as well!

7. Using Lights

Groundhogs are not strictly nocturnal animals but they are most active at low light so they do avoid areas with bright lights.

Motion-activated lights, sounds, and sprinklers may help prevent groundhogs from entering your yard.

Any blinking light will confuse and scare away groundhogs from your yard, especially if they are motion activated and sudden!

8. Motion-activated sprinklers

Like most animals, groundhogs hate surprises, and they will run away if suddenly sprayed with water. I like this solution because it is humane, simple, effective, and does not require much time to set up.

My favorite sprinkler option here is the Havahart 5277.

The Havahart 5277 is a motion-activated sprinkler that is activated by the movement of animals up to 25 feet away and sprays them with a harmless water jet, frightening them off and keeping them at bay.

The included metal stake makes it easy to install in your garden, and the sprinkler can be rotated 180 degrees for maximum coverage.

Check out my recent post on the best humane, but effective, tactics against rodents like groundhogs and gophers in your yard!

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