Cool Tools: The Gophinator


February 1, 2008

The Gophinator is a newly designed stainless steel pocket gopher trap quickly gaining popularity as the trap of choice for professional turf managers and wildlife management professionals (WMPs). It was designed and is manufactured by a WMP with more than 16 years experience running a mole and gopher control business in the San Francisco Bay Area.

One of the key issues faced by those doing gopher control on a large scale is the problem of trap shyness and trap avoidance. Gophers are powerfully built animals with a lot of loose skin, a combination that makes them remarkably adept at wriggling their way out of sprung traps.

Other popular traps available on the market may catch the juveniles and smaller adults fairly consistently, but lack the power and proper mechanics to consistently hold and kill the larger adults. Gophers that survive being pinched in a trap learn fast – they quickly become trap shy and will repeatedly pack dirt against traps set in their tunnels, or simply avoid the traps altogether.

As traps rust from use underground, increased friction on sliding parts further decreases the power they produce and their effectiveness. This can make a trap that exhibits marginal performance completely unacceptable. Educated gophers can become nearly impossible to trap, and they continue to breed, repopulating tunnel systems and hampering control efforts.

No Second Chance

The Gophinator is designed to nearly eliminate the problem of trap shyness in a number of ways. It employs a powerful torsion type of mechanism which draws the target animal in tightly to a pivot point at the front of the trap, and applies plenty of power to hold and kill even the largest adults consistently. The theory here is that if the gopher is killed on the first try, it never gets the opportunity to learn to avoid traps.

The design further reduces trap avoidance by giving the gopher a clear path to the trigger — if the gopher walks mostly on dirt rather than wire on its way to the trigger, it will be less likely to identify the trap as a potentially dangerous foreign object in its tunnel system, and thus more likely to enter the trap.

Finally, the trap is constructed entirely out of high temper stainless steel wire, so it will not lose power or trigger sensitivity due to rust.

Pocket gophers show a wide variation in body size between species (7–14 inches), and across geographical ranges within species. The Gophinator is designed to catch them all. It is small enough to fit in the tunnels of the smallest of adult gophers, and powerful enough to be effective against even the largest individuals. It has proven effective against both the Thomomys species found in the Western states, and the somewhat larger Geomys species found in the Great Plains region and in the Southeast.

Several mammals, particularly moles and groundhogs, are sometimes confused with pocket gophers because of variations in common local terminology. In the Southeastern United States, pocket gophers are called “salamanders,” (derived from the term sandy mounder), while the term gopher refers to a tortoise. Pocket gophers can be distinguished from the other mammals by their telltale signs as well as by their appearance. Pocket gophers leave soil mounds on the surface of the ground. The mounds are usually fan-shaped and tunnel entrances are plugged, keeping various intruders out of burrows.

The Gophinator is too large to fit into mole tunnels, and is not recommended for that use, though a scaled down version designed for moles and the smallest juvenile gophers is in the works and will be available soon.

You can reach Alan Huot, president of Wildlife Control Supplies in East Granby, Conn.,


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