Question: How can I tell if I have gophers or moles in my lawn? What will eliminate them?

Answer: There is a great deal of confusion in identification and control of these two damaging animals. Both will be most common in areas with sandy soils. Here are the details on each pest.

Gophers have small external ears and eyes. Their front incisor teeth are always exposed. Gophers are rodents, and more closely resemble squirrels in their head and facial features. Gophers feed on roots that they encounter while digging. They may also feed on above-ground vegetation that is very close to the openings of their tunnels, and they may actually pull plants into their tunnels from below. They feed on all manners of plants, from grasses and annuals to shrubs and even trees. Gopher mounds are generally kidney-shaped and made of finely sifted soil. Gophers usually have larger mounds, and they often are in line with one another. Control them with poison baits that are placed into their tunnel systems. Remove any bait that spills on the surface of the ground. Locate the main tunnel, place the bait within it, then seal off any opening you have made.

Moles have hairless, pointed snouts extending nearly 1/2-inch in front of their mouth opening. Their small eyes and the opening of their ear canals are concealed in fur, and there are no external ears. Moles are insectivores, related to bats. Moles are generally found in cool, moist and shaded soils that are populated by earthworms and grub worms. Moles leave volcano-shaped hills that are often made up of clods of soil. Moles are best controlled using traps that are implanted into depressed portions of the surface tunnels. As the moles push up to re-open their tunnels, the traps are triggered.

For the record, commercially available sonic devices that claim to scare gophers away are reportedly ineffective, as are the plants, gopher purge and castor bean, both of which have been claimed to drive the animals away.