Is it Legal to Kill Gophers in California?

In California, gophers are common garden pests, responsible for significant damage to lawns, gardens, and crops. And controlling the gopher population is crucial to protecting the garden from these pests. But on the other hand, gophers’ existence is also important to a sustainable ecology. 

These animals’ tunnels act as natural underground water passages, benefiting various plants. Furthermore, the soil, where gophers do their engineering, is often richer in nutrients than the surrounding soil, promoting the growth of plants. 

Moreover, gophers are considered a vital source of food for predators like hawks, owls, foxes, and snakes. And also, the acts of this pest on soil offer habitation for soil-dwelling animals like earthworms, beetles, etc.

So, in consideration of gophers’ contribution to ecology, is it legal to kill gophers in California? The straightforward answer is yes, killing gophers is legal. But the permitted killing methods are trapping, poisonous baits, and fumigation. 

However, there are two popular and legal pest prevention methods to control: using natural components and exclusion. Here, gopher control regulations in California create a balancing context within this contradictory scenario. 

In this article, we detail every aspect of gopher killing in California while finding effective resolutions to protect this pest from becoming extinct.

Gopher Control Regulations in California

To control gopher population, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has classified this species as non-mammal. The regulation states that you can use legal methods to control the population. Here, legal methods include traps, poisonous baits, natural approaches, etc. 

Gopher Control Regulations in California

However, the use of fumigation methods is critically regulated; the use of carbon monoxide has superior legal provisions.

Legal Gopher Control Methods in California

The California Department of Fish and Game has classified gophers as non-game mammals. So residents can employ a suitable pest management approach if it is causing damage. Here is the in-depth discussion on that.

Legal Gopher Control Methods in California

Below are some of the most popular and supported legality to control the gopher population.

1. Applying Natural Approaches

In this case, people use their pets, like dogs, cats, etc., to get rid of gophers from their gardens. Cats, by nature, are highly motivated to kill and eat gophers. Gopher meats are highly desirable food for cats. 

On the other hand, dogs may kill, but it is not good to let them eat gopher’s meat to restrict secondary contamination.

Applying Natural Approaches


  • Environmental friendly
  • Safe for pets and wildlife
  • Small expense
  • Sustainable


  • Less effective with limited outcomes
  • Requires more efforts

Using Criteria

  • If there are only a few gophers in the yard or garden
  • The respective area is environmentally sensitive
  • The respective garden is organic

2. Exclusion Method

Gopher exclusion is an effective and authorized pest control method. It includes using physical barriers to prevent gophers from entering the plant area. 

The process is substantially simple and can be done by installing underground fencing or wire cloth around the perimeter of a garden or agricultural field. The wire fencing must reach a depth of two feet, literally covering the in-soil portion of the plants.

Gopher Exclusion Method


  • No harm to the environment
  • Ensures safety for pets and wildlife
  • Lasts for a longer period


  • Expensive
  • Labor requirement

Using Criteria

  • If the gopher population is small
  • To ensure a minimum impact on the environment
  • If targeted control of gophers is needed

3. Trapping Method

Trapping is a commonly used method for gopher control. It involves placing traps in artificially created tunnels or active gopher tunnels to catch them. This method is often preferred over other methods as it is more targeted and has a lower environmental impact. 

In consideration of the trapping regulations, many people select box traps, tunnel traps, and snap traps.

Gopher Trapping Method


  • No harmful impact on the environment
  • Cost-effective
  • It is considered humane
  • No poisoning for other animals


  • Time-consuming
  • Less effective

Using Criteria

  • If the gopher population is limited
  • The respective area is highly populated
  • The gophers are active

4. Poisonous Bait

The use of bait contains toxic ingredients. It is legal to control gophers in California. But the regulation demands the use of poisons as per label directions. However, the legal poisons are zinc phosphide, strychnine, and chlorophacinone.

Gopher Poison Bait


  • Highly effective
  • Easy to use
  • Less effort requirement
  • Cost-effective


  • Harmful to the environment
  • A higher possibility of secondary poisoning

Using Criteria

  • The gopher population is large
  • The respective area is vast
  • Limited access to borrowings made by the gopher species

5. Fumigation

When every other method fails, the fumigation method needs to be applied. In this method, toxic gases are released in the burrowings of gophers. The toxic gases include aluminum phosphide, carbon monoxide, etc. However, this approach can only be applied by licensed professionals.

Gopher Fumigation


  • Highly effective
  • The result comes very fast
  • Highly suitable for a larger area
  • A good solution for a large gopher population


  • Adverse effects on the environment
  • Can kill other animals
  • Expensive and requires expertise

Using Criteria

  • The gopher population is large
  • The respective area is vast
  • Limited access to burrows

Preventing Gopher Damage

We all know that prevention is always better than cure. This statement is also applicable to backyard pests control, including gophers. So, what are the measures and impacts on the gopher population? Let’s explore the comprehensive list below.

Preventing Gopher Damage

Planting Gopher-resistant Plants

Many plants do not attract gophers, such as alliums, daffodils, euphorbias, globe thistles, etc. Planting these plants discourages gophers from making tunnels, as they don’t like these plants. It eliminates the threat of foraging by gophers.

Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

Gopher behavior weakened and stressed plants are the best caching option for gophers. So maintaining the plants’ health can reduce the attack of gophers.

Installing Physical Barriers

Wire mesh, hardware cloth, or buried fencing around the vegetation restricts the access of gophers, preventing associated damages. As the pests cannot enter the premise, they won’t make any tunnels, i.e., no damage to crops.

Use of Repellents

Gopher repellents like granular repellents and ultrasonic devices discourage them from accessing the premises. The respective odors or sounds keep the pests far away.

Gopher repellents

Regular Check-Up

A daily checkup of the garden condition assists in identifying gophers’ presence and allows for earlier intervention. This context minimizes the severity of the damage.

Preventive Measures vs. Controlling Methods

The below table contains comparisons between the prevention and controlling approaches for rodents.

Prevention Control
No harm to the environment and wildlifeSome methods are harmful to the environment and are responsible for wildlife removal
Reduced costsComparatively higher costs
More restrictions on plat-type selection Zero restriction on plat-type selection 
No legal restrictions associatedLegal restrictions available
If you’re living in California and want to know about the legality of killing gophers, our article on is it legal to kill gophers in California provides an overview of the regulations related to gopher control in the state. Additionally, if you’re looking for effective ways to collapse gopher tunnels, our article on how to collapse gopher tunnels provides a variety of methods for controlling gopher populations. Finally, if you’re interested in the difference between gophers and beavers, our article on gopher vs beaver explores the distinguishing characteristics and behaviors of these two rodents. Our piece on how to collapse gopher tunnels provides effective methods for controlling gopher populations, while our article on gopher vs beaver provides insights into the differences between these two rodents.


Below are the answers to some of the most common questions regarding killing gophers in California.

Q: Can gophers cause damage to pipes and other underground structures?

Yes, gopher behavior includes creating tunnels which result in loosening the soil. And it presents an issue of instability for the structure. Also, for piping, the setup usually rests on concrete bases; with degraded soil formation, the base can shrink, damaging the whole piping system.

Q: How long do gophers live?

In general, gophers’ lifespan is 1–3 years. However, in some cases, a particular one can survive for up to 5 years.

Q: Can I hire a professional gopher control company in California?

Surely, you can hire a professional gopher control company. There are a significant number of such companies present. 

Final Words

Finally, if you are asking that is it legal to kill gophers in California, the answer is “yes.” These pests have been classified as nongame mammals. And to restrict the damages created by them, you can go for controlling the population. 

In this case, you can use various methods like trapping, using poisonous baits, and fumigation. However, Many pest control companies in California provide gopher control services. It is important to remember that these methods have some legal and environmental implications. 

Following this, you may prioritize preventive actions over controlling methods. By being informed about the updated regulations and guidelines for gopher control in California, you will be able to make effective decisions. 

The gained knowledge on gopher-related pest management laws in California will also assist you in minimizing the impact on the surrounding ecosystem. Also, they will ensure good health conditions for the vegetation. 

Additionally, knowing the legal restrictions can help you substantially avoid violating the state law to control gopher damage in California.

Lastly, more research on gopher-resistant plants and controlling methods is essential. There is a vital scope for finding more effective and environment-friendly solutions that cost less time, money, and effort. In this case, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is the prominent action taker.

Lisa G

Meet Lisa G, the founder and author of With over 3 years of experience studying and observing various species of rodents. Lisa has established herself as a credible expert in the field. Her passion for these often-overlooked animals shines through in her in-depth articles and engaging writing style. Follow her blog to learn fascinating facts and gain a new appreciation for the furry creatures that share our world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *