Gopher Holes vs Rat Holes: Telling the Difference

Gopher Holes vs Rat Holes

There are many different animals that will dig holes in lawns and backyards, but two of the most annoying and destructive are rats and gophers. Whilst it is possible that both are digging holes in your lawn concurrently, knowing who is responsible for what hold can help you figure out how to deal with it.

I’ve had both critters invade my property, so know exactly how to tell the difference between a gopher hole vs a rat hole. 

Here’s how you tell which is which…

Gopher holes vs rat holes

The easiest way to know whether it’s a rat or a gopher hole is the sight of a mound. Gophers leave mounds of soil at the top of their tunnel, which is typically plugged shut, with no open hole.

Gopher mounds tend to be in a horseshoe shape, with the soil fanning out on one side where the gopher pushed it out. 

When rats dig holes in backyards, they do not plug them, or leave a mound of earth on the surface. You will just see an open, and irregular looking hole like the ones below.

rat holes
Example of rat holes.

The only time a gopher hole will be open is when the critter has come up to search for food (here’s what they like to eat). 

Handy Hint: Gophers are not the only animal to leave a mound behind. Moles do too, and you can read about mole vs gopher mounds here

Size is another consideration in the gopher hole vs rat hole debate. Gophers tend to have smaller holes than rats. 

Other difference between gopher and rat holes is their location. It’s very unusual for rats to dig holes in open areas, for example, they won’t in the middle of your lawn. Rats prefer to create holes and tunnels near the cover of a fence line, under a bush, or near a wall.

Gophers are far more indiscriminate and will dig holes across your lawn, being happy to pop up a mound in full view of you and your home. Gophers are also more prolific at digging holes compared to rats, sometimes creating one mound a day!

What’s worse in your backyard, rats, or gophers?

To be honest, I hate having both rats and gophers in my backyard. Both can do a lot of damage. For example, if you find rat holes in your lawn you have a big problem… rats crave vegetables, fruits, and anything else they can eat, so will destroy all your hard work.

Their tunnels will also damage lawns, roots of trees, and possibly even the foundations of paths and patios. 

And of course… rats carry disease and parasites.

Then you have gophers. They too can cause a lot of damage, but it’s on a far larger scale due to how many holes they will tunnel in your lawn. 

I hate both.

What if something else is digging the holes?

Over the last few months I’ve written a number of guides which help you compare what is digging holes in your yard. Here’s a selection, and most have photos in to help you understand the differences better.

Categorized as Backyard