Seeing mounds of dirt in your backyard is enough to make any keen gardener anxious, because it can only mean one thing. It means you have some species of burrowing animal, such as gopher or mole, who is digging tunnels, and excavating that dirt up to the surface.
Understanding the difference between gopher mounds vs mole mounds can help you choose the correct strategy for getting rid of them. More on that later though.
Firstly, I want to explain how to tell the difference between mole and gopher holes or mounds. It’s a lot easier than you might think.
Gopher mounds vs mole mounds
To tell whether you have a mole or gopher in your backyard, you need to look at the mounds they create above ground. Whilst gopher holes vs mole holes and the mounds they create, look the same at first glance, there are subtle differences.
When you look at a mole mound, the soil will be piled up in a volcano or rounded cone shape with a depression in the top where the hole has been plugged.
A gopher mound vs mole mound is usually larger. Gophers dig holes differently to moles, so if it’s a gopher mound, you will see the soil has been pushed out and away in a fan or horseshoe type shape. This happens due to the way in which gophers shovel earth out to create a horseshoe shaped mound.
Again, as with both gopher holes and mole holes, gophers will not leave a visible hole. They will have plugged it. The only time you will see a hole in a gopher mound is when they are out exploring your backyard for food.
If a gopher is in the tunnel, there will be fresh and fluffy soil on the mound which has plugged the hole.
There are some other key factors when learning how to tell the difference between gopher and mole holes.
Gopher mounds tend to be shallower than those created by moles. Gophers also tend to dig in areas of your backyard with loose, sandy soil. Compare this to mole mounds which are typically deeper and are often found in areas with clay or loam soil.
Another consideration when comparing a mole mound vs gopher mound is what the tunnels look like from the surface (if you can see them).
Mole tunnels will look a bit look veins as you see on the back of your hand.
The mound on top of the gopher hole will lead to a main tunnel which can be a few inches to 18 inches underground. The main tunnel will have additional burrows coming, meaning you will start to see more mounds appearing as the gopher builds an extensive home.
If you push the soil away, you will find a hole that is 2½ to 3½ inches in diameter. Some gopher holes can be as deep as 6 feet, but this is unusual, and only happens in yards with extremely soft soil.
If you still can’t figure out what’s making the dirt mounds in your backyard, check to see what has been eaten.
Gophers like to eat things like:
- Roots and bulbs (from below)
- Fruits and berries
Compare that to moles, who won’t come above ground and start eating vegetation in your garden or backyard.
Instead, moles tend to survive on eating insects that live underground, with their primary food source being earthworms. If there’s an insect, grub, or small invertebrate in the soil, moles will eat it.
Moles spend most of their life underground, burrowing through the soil in search of food
In conclusion, the biggest difference between gopher holes vs mole holes is the mound they leave. Look for a horseshoe shape for a gopher, and volcano shape for a mole.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t have both making holes in your backyard!
Other key difference between moles vs gophers
Whilst moles and gophers are both small animals that burrow holes and tunnels in your backyard, there are several big differences between these two animals, aside from what their mounds look like.
Understanding these will help you to tell what is digging the holes in your yard.
When you examine their behavior, moles are solitary creatures that don’t live in social groups. Gophers are more social and can live in colonies with multiple family members. This means if you have gophers, you will see more mounds than you would with moles.
Gophers can create one mound on average a day… they can do a lot of damage.
Another key difference in mole or gopher mounds is when they appear.
Moles are active 12 months a year, and do not hibernate. Compare this to gophers who are more seasonal and hibernate during the cold winter months.
How to get rid of moles and gophers in your yard
I’ve already written extensive guides on how to get rid of gophers, and you can read that here. You can use similar tactics to rid your backyard of moles.