Snake Holes vs Gopher Holes: The Differences

Snake Holes vs Gopher Holes

Whether you have snakes or gophers in your backyard, or perhaps both, neither will be a welcome visitor. Gophers will cause all kind of damage to your lawn and plants, whilst snakes are… well, just snakes. And some people hate them.

Both live in holes, so it could be a snake hole or gopher hole you’re looking at on your backyard lawn. Knowing which critter you’re dealing with will change any strategy you may implement to get rid of them.

So, when it comes to the snake holes vs gopher holes debate, which would I rather have, and how do you tell the difference? 

It’s simple, and all is explained below. 

Snake holes vs gopher holes

The difference between a snake hole or gopher hole, is that snake holes will always be open. Gophers plug the holes into their tunnels unless they are coming out quickly to forage for food. 

So, if you see an open hole, it could be a snake. If you see a mound of soil on the surface, and the earth is piled out into a horseshoe type shape, that’s probably a plugged gopher hole.

But here’s the thing.

Aside from a few species of snakes you find in Africa, snakes don’t make their own holes in your backyard. What snakes do, is find a hole another animal has made, and then take it over to make it their own home.

That means what once was a gopher hole in your backyard, could now be a snake hole. As an example, if the gopher came out of the tunnel for food, the hole would be open, and the snake could slither in.

gopher in hole
When the gopher leaves the hole, a snake can enter the hole. (Image: Wikipedia)

The gopher then returns home having eaten the plants in your yard, only to be met with huge surprise by a hungry snake. You might have heard of gopher snakes – this is a snake species that specializes in this tactic. 

The differences between gopher and snake holes

Other things to look out for are multiple holes appearing daily. Gophers can make a new hole every day, so if you start to see mounds of earth appearing on your lawn, it’s a gopher.

A snake won’t do that and can’t do that.

The mound of a gopher hole will not be circular and neat but instead will have evidence where the gopher has kicked and shovelled the soil out – like that horseshoe shape I mentioned earlier. 

There won’t be an obvious hole in the mound unless the gopher has vacated the tunnel system or is in and out frequently for food – which is the time a snake can take advantage of the hole. 

If a gopher is in the tunnel, there will be fresh and fluffy soil on the mound which has plugged the hole. 

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.

Would I rather have snakes or gophers living in the holes?

The majority of snakes you find in your backyard won’t be venomous and will do their best to keep out of your way. The reality is you might not even know you have snakes living in holes in your backyard.

Gophers, however, cause untold damage and are prodigious tunnellers. 

Gophers can tunnel under foundations. Gophers can eat the plants in your backyard. Gophers can create huge tunnel networks under your lawn, causing the soil to collapse

Snakes don’t do any of this. 

In fact, snakes are a great part of the backyard eco-system as they keep critters down. If I had gopher holes in my backyard, I would want gopher snakes to go down those holes and deal with them.

Give me a snake in my yard any day of the week over a gopher.

Where I might draw the line is rattlesnakes.

Do rattlesnakes live in gopher holes?

Rattlesnakes can live in gopher holes. They will go down gopher holes, kill the gopher, and make their own nest. 

This is a common theme in winter when rattlesnakes need a place to hibernate. They will seek out naturally occurring crevices, or holes made by gophers, groundhogs, or any other animal.

What to do about gopher holes or snake holes

If you are worried about snakes living in holes in your yard, you need to stop blaming the snake, and consider what other critter is making the holes. In this case, it could be gophers.

But of course, you need to get the snakes out of the holes first, then make steps to ensure gophers don’t come back and make more. Here are some handy guides:

  1. How to get rid of snakes from holes
  2. How to get rid of and fill gopher holes

It might not be gophers making the holes…

One last thing to consider is how it might not actually be gophers making the holes in your backyard. 

Other possibilities are voles, moles, squirrels, chipmunks, or even crawfish.

More backyard guides…

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