Brochures

Plant Problems

Pocket Gophers & Voles


Pocket Gophers

Pocket Gophers are rodents that vary in size from 15-25cm. They have small eyes, short ears and highly sensitive whiskers, which help them move in the dark. Their large-clawed front paws are curved making them ideal for digging. They have soft, fine hair that is grey to brown.

These burrowing animals get their name from fur-lined external cheek pouches or pockets they use for carrying food and nesting materials. They have an unusual feature where their lips can close behind their four large teeth to keep dirt out of their mouth when they use their teeth for digging. These rodents are active year round. They do not hibernate. Pocket Gophers are often confused with moles, which are not present in Alberta.

Feeding

  • Feed on vegetation only - roots, bulbs and other fleshy portions of plants that they encounter while digging
  • They will also eat leaves, and stems of plants near their tunnel entrances and can pull entire plants into their tunnels
  • During winter in areas that have snow, pocket gophers will chew on the bark of trees and shrubs

Damage

  • Mounds of dirt from tunnelling activity, tunnels approximately 7.5cm (3inches) in diameter
  • Feed on roots and other fleshy plant parts - kill or girdle plants
  • Destroy entire plants

Prevention and Control

Trapping is the best method for control. Traps should be set in the freshest tunnels. Pull the soil away from the tunnel set the trap into the hole, push dirt back up around the trap. Check traps in the morning; move trap after 48 hours, and try to find the freshest tunnels for the traps.


Voles

Voles are small rodents similar to field mice. They have small ears, a rounded muzzle and head; short tail and greyish-brown fur. Voles are active day and night and throughout the entire year. They construct surface runways and underground tunnels with many burrow entrances. Voles do a lot of damage, especially during the winter months as they travel in tunnels beneath the insulation of snow.

Damage from voles:

  • Snake-like 2.5-5cm tunnels (runways) of dead grass throughout your lawn that lead to shallow burrows
  • Bark has been removed completely around the base of trees and shrubs (girdling - complete removal of a strip of bark around the circumference of a branch or trunk, which results in death of the tree over time). While they prefer to chew on young trees and plants, they will eat any trees if food is scarce, and will alter their diet to meet nutritional needs.
  • Will feed on grasses, forbs, agricultural crops, ground bulbs, root vegetables or exposed roots of older trees

Prevention and Control

Habitat Management - eliminate habitat (tall grass, weeds, pruning debris)

  • Keep your lawn mowed, especially going into the winter
  • Clean up plant debris - plant debris can be a temporary food source

Protection

  • Wrap trees with tree guards that cover the trunks 45cm (18 inches) above ground. This will protect tree against voles chewing and girdling

Repellents

Plantskydd - Planskydd is a great choice for keeping these pests away. It is an organic blood based product that works by emitting an odor that animals associate with predators. The fear based response will repel the animals before they start to feed on your plants and send them elsewhere to find food. Plantskydd is rain fast in 24 hours and has been proven to be effective up to 6 months in the winter and 3 to 4 months in the summer. Spray Plantskydd onto dry plants allow to dry for 24 hours. Spray trunks or trees, stems of perennials and shrubs as well as lower leaves. Spray plants around the perimeter of the yard to keep unwanted animals from coming in and damaging plants. Spray enough to cover branches but doesn’t have to be dripping with excess.

Tips:

  • spray is dark red but will dry clear
  • rain fast in 24 hours
  • lasts up to 6 months in the winter; 3-4 months in the summer
  • Apply when temperatures are above freezing
  • Needles and leaves will darken temporarily after treatment - colour will return after 18-36 hours
  • Avoid applying in direct, hot sun; early morning or late afternoon are the best times to apply
  • Do not spray directly on wood, vinyl, concrete, furniture, fences or other building surfaces.
  • Ready to Use spray needs to be used within 3 months of opening
  • Rinse sprayer with warm water after each use
  • Store in a cool, dry, dark location and keep from freezing