What Eats Gophers? Discover 12 Powerful Predators

Gophers are small, burrowing rodents that can cause significant damage to gardens, lawns, and even crops.

While there are a variety of methods for gopher control, one of the most natural and effective ways to keep their population in check is through their natural predators.

In this article, we’ll explore the topic of “What Eats Gophers?” and take a closer look at the natural predators of gophers.

We’ll also answer some common questions such as whether cats and dogs eat gophers, whether gophers have any defenses against predators, and even whether humans can eat gophers.

So, if you’re looking for a natural solution to your gopher problem, keep reading to learn more!

What Eats Gophers? Natural Predators of Gophers

Gophers may be small in size, but they have a significant impact on their surrounding environment.

With their extensive tunneling and insatiable appetite for plant roots, they can wreak havoc on lawns, gardens, and agricultural fields.

However, nature has its way of keeping gopher populations in check.

Here we will explore the natural predators that have evolved to target gophers and keep their numbers in check.

What Eats Gophers? 
Natural Predators of Gophers

Coyotes

  • Coyotes are cunning and adaptable canines known for their keen hunting abilities.
  • These intelligent predators have a knack for sniffing out gophers hidden beneath the ground.
  • Once a coyote detects a gopher, it’s sharp teeth and strong jaws will dig into gopher burrows, swiftly capturing its prey.

Badgers

  • Badgers are well-known for their ability to dig and burrow, which makes them excellent hunters of gophers.
  • Badgers use their exceptional digging skills to access gopher burrows, relying on their strong jaws and lightning-fast strikes to capture gophers.
  • Their tenacity and voracious appetite make them highly effective in controlling gopher populations.
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Bobcats

  • Bobcats, with their agile and elusive nature, are stealthy hunters that include gophers in their diet.
  • These medium-sized cats have remarkable patience and are skilled at stalking their prey.
  • When the opportunity arises, bobcats pounce on gophers, using their sharp teeth and claws to secure a meal.
What Eats Gophers? 
Natural Predators of Gophers

Snakes

  • Certain snake species, such as gopher snakes, play a crucial role in controlling gopher populations.
  • These non-venomous serpents are attracted to gophers due to the abundant food source within their tunnels.
  • Gopher snakes are skilled burrowers themselves, allowing them to navigate gopher tunnels with ease.
  • They use constriction to capture and eat gophers, preventing their numbers from spiraling out of control.
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Birds of Prey

  • Aerial hunters like hawks, owls, and eagles have developed remarkable adaptations to target gophers from above.
  • These birds of prey have exceptional vision and can spot gophers with precision.
  • With swift and silent flights, they swoop down upon gophers, using their sharp talons to snatch them from their burrows.
  • This effective hunting strategy makes them valuable allies in controlling gopher populations.
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Herons

Blue Heron hunting and eating a gopher (Jim Zenor)
  • While they primarily feed on fish, herons have been observed preying on gophers in certain regions.
  • Their long legs and sharp beaks enable them to strike quickly and capture gophers in open areas near water bodies.
  • Although not as commonly known for gopher predation, herons still play a small part in the overall dynamics of gopher populations.
What Eats Gophers? 
Natural Predators of Gophers

Weasels

  • Weasels are agile and nimble predators that include gophers in their diet.
  • With their slender bodies and quick reflexes, they can pursue gophers both above and below ground.
  • Weasels are known for their ability to enter gopher burrows and capture their prey.

Foxes

  • Their acute senses and agility make them skilled hunters.
  • Foxes use their keen sense of hearing and smell to detect gophers and then rely on their speed and agility to pursue and capture their prey.
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Skunks

  • While their diet primarily consists of insects, small mammals, and plant matter, skunks have been observed hunting and consuming gophers when the opportunity arises.
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Do Cats Kill Gophers?

Cats are natural predators and are known to hunt and kill small rodents, including gophers.

Cats typically kill gophers by biting them in the neck, which severs their spinal cord. This method is quick and effective and allows the cat to kill the gopher without sustaining any injuries.

Cats are effective at hunting and killing gophers, and they can be used as a natural form of pest control in gardens and yards.

Cat Vs Gopher (Tony Battelle)

However, whether or not a cat will hunt gophers depends on several factors, including their natural prey drive, hunting experience, and the availability of other food sources.

Some cat owners even feed their cats gophers as a source of food. However, it’s important to note that gophers can carry diseases, so it’s important to properly handle and prepare the gopher before feeding it to your cat.

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Do Dogs Eat Gophers?

Dogs, known for their curiosity and penchant for exploring, may occasionally encounter gophers during their outdoor adventures.

While some dogs may show interest in gophers, their inclination to eat them can vary based on individual preferences and training.

Gophers themselves are not harmful to dogs and can be safely consumed. Meat from a healthy gopher is not toxic to dogs.

However, it’s important to note that there are certain considerations to keep in mind to ensure the safety of your canine companion.

If a gopher has been poisoned, it can pose a risk to your dog. Poisoned gophers may contain toxic substances that can potentially harm your dog if ingested. In such cases, eating a poisoned gopher can lead to secondary poisoning, putting your dog’s health at risk.

Additionally, gophers are rodents, and there is a chance that their meat may contain rodenticide. Rodenticides are chemicals used to control rodent populations, and they can be harmful to dogs if consumed.

Ingesting a gopher that has consumed rodenticide can result in secondary poisoning in dogs.

Furthermore, gophers can carry various diseases, parasites, or bacteria. If a gopher dies due to poisoning, has a worm infection, or is carrying harmful bacteria, consuming it can pose health risks to your dog.

Your veterinarian may recommend withholding food and water from your dog for a couple of hours to allow their stomach to rest. 

After this period, you can gradually resume your regular feeding routine.
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Do Gophers Have Any Defenses Against Predators?

Gophers, being small burrowing rodents, have evolved several defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators.

While they may seem vulnerable, gophers have developed adaptations that help them survive in their underground world and evade potential threats.

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Keen Sense of Hearing

  • This heightened sense of hearing enables them to be alert and react swiftly when predators approach their burrows.

Warning System

  • When gophers sense danger, they have a unique warning system.
  • This coordinated warning system helps the entire gopher colony stay vigilant and respond collectively to potential predator presence.

Burrow Network

  • Gophers are adept at constructing intricate networks of tunnels and burrows.
  • These underground structures serve as both shelter and escape routes.
  • When faced with a predator, gophers can rapidly retreat into their burrows, using their burrow system as a safe haven.
  • To further protect themselves, gophers have the ability to push up an earthen plug to block the advance of snakes into their burrows.
  • This clever defense mechanism allows them to thwart potential snake attacks.
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Camouflage and Hiding

  • Their brown or grayish fur helps them blend into the soil and vegetation, providing camouflage when they venture outside their burrows.
  • Additionally, gophers use natural cover, such as tall grass or bushes, to hide and minimize their visibility.
Watch a Gopher dig tunnels in the “Gopher Farm” (Shawn Woods)

Agility and Speed

  • When faced with a potential threat, they can quickly retreat into their burrows, utilizing their strong claws and powerful limbs to dig rapidly.
  • Their ability to swiftly disappear underground makes it challenging for predators to catch them.

Can Humans Eat Gophers?

While gophers are not a common food source for humans, it is possible to eat them. However, there are some things to consider before consuming gophers.

Gophers are not only edible but also considered nutritious. Some people even describe the taste of gophers as similar to chicken, making it difficult to tell the difference.

Catch And Cook Gopher (Fowler’s Makery and Mischief)

Gophers can provide nutritional benefits, particularly in their large bones, which contain nutritious marrow. The marrow is rich in essential nutrients, including proteins, fats, and minerals, which can contribute to a healthy diet.

However, it’s important to note that gophers are known to carry diseases and parasites that can be harmful to humans. Therefore, caution should be exercised when consuming gophers.

Proper handling, cleaning, and thorough cooking are crucial to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination and potential transmission of diseases or parasites.

If you decide to consume gophers, it is essential to ensure that they are sourced from safe and healthy populations. Avoid eating gophers that have been exposed to rodenticides, as these chemicals can pose serious health risks.

It's advisable to consult with local health authorities or experts who are familiar with the specific risks and precautions associated with consuming gophers in your region.

They can provide guidance on safe handling, cooking methods, and potential health concerns related to consuming wild game. 
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Final Thoughts

Like all animals, Gophers have natural predators, including birds of prey, snakes, coyotes, and badgers, that hunt and eat them.

These predators use different techniques to catch and kill gophers. Understanding the natural predators of gophers can help you manage their populations in your garden or yard.

Using natural predators as a form of pest control can be effective, but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and benefits associated with each predator.

FAQs

What animals eat gophers?

Various animals, including coyotes, badgers, bobcats, snakes, birds of prey (such as hawks and owls), herons, skunks, weasels, and foxes, are known to eat gophers.

Are gophers scared of pets?

Gophers may exhibit fear or avoidance behavior in the presence of pets, but their response can vary. pets like cats and dogs may not necessarily be effective in controlling gopher populations.

Can you eat gophers?

While it is possible to eat gophers under certain circumstances, there are considerations to keep in mind. Gophers may carry diseases and parasites, and caution should be exercised when consuming them. It is advisable to seek guidance from local experts and follow proper food safety practices.

Are gophers friendly to humans?

Gophers are primarily wild animals and do not show a friendly or domesticated nature towards humans. They are more focused on their burrowing activities and survival in their natural habitat. Interactions between gophers and humans are generally limited and often involve conflicts due to the damage they can cause to gardens and landscapes.

Resources – (for further reading)

Montana State University – Non chemical control of pocket gophers

UC ANR – Pocket Gophers

I'm Ernest M Noah, the founder of BugsTips.com. I have years of experience as an exterminator in Texas and Idaho, and I'm passionate about educating people on how to deal with pest problems effectively and safely.