Our Water Our World: Controlling Moles, Voles, and Gophers

Learn how to control moles, voles, and gophers with these tips from the City of Goleta Environmental Services Division.

Moles, voles, and gophers are small, mouse-like animals that are found outdoors in your backyard. These mammals look similar, live underground, and move quickly, so it can be difficult to distinguish them. One way to know if you have moles, voles, or gophers is to look at the soil mounds or holes in your backyard.

Do You Have Moles, Voles or Gophers?

  • Moles travel through a network of raised tunnels and create cone-shaped soil mounds entrance holes
  • Moles have oversized front claws, sensitive snouts, and poor eyesight
  • Voles travel through a network of closed or partly exposed tunnels and create clean, golf-ball sized entrance holes
  • Voles look the most like mice and have short tails and round bodies
  • Gophers create a crescent-shaped soil mound with a plugged opening
  • Gophers are larger than moles or voles and have yellow-orange teeth

Did You Know?

  • Moles usually do not eat plants and can usually be found after a rain event
  • Vole populations can quickly reach up to thousands per acre
  • Gophers carry food and nesting material in their cheek pouches

What Can You Do?

Different methods can be used to remove moles, voles, and gophers such as creating barriers or using traps. The most effective and less toxic method to control moles, voles, and gophers is to create barriers. To prevent these animals temporarily, purchase castor oil-based repellents. It is not recommended to use any poisons, fumigants, or devices that cause fire (incendiary devices).

  • Build in barriers. Use wire baskets when planting fruit trees or other plants. For planter beds, lay wire mesh or hardware cloth across the entire bottom.
  • Use the correct measurements. Certain measurements should be used when installing barriers. If you have voles, bury ¼-inch wire mesh 6 to 10 inches below the surface and leave 12 inches above the surface. For gophers, bury at least 24 inches below the surface.
  • Use a wire basket. For delicate plants, use wire baskets, also known as “gopher baskets.”
  • Remove weeds. Remove weeds or other unwanted plants, which can attract these animals.
  • Avoid and remove dense foliage. Voles use dense foliage to hide from predators, such as owls and hawks.
  • Call in professionals. If you want to trap and remove these animals, it is recommended to call a professional because trapping can be dangerous.

Find more information on controlling moles, voles, and gophers with eco-friendly products in our OWOW brochure

The City of Goleta along with the Cities of Buellton, Carpinteria, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and the County of Santa Barbara have partnered with the OWOW organization to promote the use of less-toxic products in an effort to reduce pesticide pollution in our communities. By reducing pesticide use and the use of less-toxic products around the home, you can help reduce pesticides and other pollutants such as herbicides and fertilizers from being picked up while watering or when it rains and transported to the nearest storm drain inlet and into our waterways. The OWOW website is a great resource for finding less-toxic products to use around your home or garden.