Differences Between Moles and Gophers

 gopher_and_mole   Mole vs gopher mounds

Do you have mounds of dirt in the yard but aren’t sure if you’ve got moles or gophers (or some other burrowing animal)? This article will help identify some of the main differences between moles and gophers. There are scores of differences between the two tunnel-dwelling animals, and we will give you a few unique characteristics of each to help you tell the difference. The main differences between moles and gophers are their anatomy, mound and tunnel structure, and their food sources. We will discuss these differences and then offer suggestions as to the best removal method for both moles and gophers.


The first difference between moles and gophers is their body structure. Although not completely blind, moles have significantly worse eyesight than gophers do. Moles can detect light and darkness, and can see movements, but they cannot distinguish colors from each other. This doesn’t effect the mole’s life very much because moles spend most of their time under the ground. When moles are young and weened they disperse above ground (primarily at night) to begin their own burrow systems. Aside from that initial venture, moles are rarely seen above ground except to gather nesting materials and to start a new burrow system. Moles mainly navigate using their internal ears that sense vibration in the ground as well as by using their nose to smell bugs and insects. Gophers have larger eyes and ears than moles do and spend more of their time above ground. Gophers rely on their eyes more for survival than moles do, but also have extremely sensitive whiskers than help them sense vibrations similar to moles. Gophers are often referred to as “pocket gophers” because of their cheek pouches that they use to store food. Moles use their large shovel-like front paws to excavate the dirt out of their tunnel systems, whereas gophers have much smaller front paws and still are able to dig vast tunnel systems.


Sometimes it is difficult for people to tell the difference between mole and gopher tunnels, but the mounds of dirt that moles and gophers make are an excellent way to tell the difference. Mole mounds are rounded and have no visible “plug” or entrance to the tunnel below (There obviously is a tunnel below it but you have to dig into the mound to find it). Moles also create surface tunnels 1 to 2 inches below the surface in search of food (see diagram pictured above). Usually these surface tunnels are unrelated to the larger mounds of dirt. Gophers make two main types of mounds. The first one is similar to the mole’s mound except it has a visible “plug” in the side of it (meaning you could follow that plug down into the gopher tunnel system). All the plug does is seals off the entrance to the gopher burrow. Mole mounds do not have visible plugs because they don’t actually leave their tunnel systems, they just excavate the dirt. The other type of mound that gophers make is called a “feeding hole”. Usually 2 to 3 inches across, this “feeding hole” allows the gophers to exit the burrow and feed on the surrounding vegetation. Typically, if you’ve got a rounded hill of dirt, you have a mole (you might also notice some “surface” tunnels), and if you have less round (more flattened) mounds with obvious “plugs” in the tunnel entrances you have a gopher.

Source of Food

Moles and gophers have very different appetites which can help identify which pest you have. Moles primarily eat insects but are technically known as omnivores (mainly insectivores). They eat mostly earthworms, beetles, and miscellaneous grubs and larvae, but will occasionally eat seeds and thin roots as well. Because moles get their food from inside their tunnel systems they end up eating a wide variety of different bugs, insects, and spiders. Keeping in mind that because moles eat insects, they naturally prefer moist climates with soft soil where insects abound. More arid climates with dry, hard soils are rarely infested with moles. Gophers, however, can survive in those warmer, drier climates because they feed on plants. Earlier in the article we discussed that gophers have “plugs” in their mounds because they come above ground to forage and gather food. Gophers eat everything from leaves, to roots, to seeds, to fruits although their diet primarily consists of various roots that they can access from below the ground. If you see a mound of dirt and all of the vegetation around the mound is gnawed down, you probably have a gopher problem. However, if you live in a moist, damp, region and are seeing mounds of dirt, you might have a mole problem.

Best Extermination Methods For Moles and Gophers

The best two ways to eliminate moles or gophers from your property are trapping, and using a PERC System to treat them. The PERC treatment involves injecting a carbon monoxide solution into the tunnel systems at a highly pressurized rate which kills the moles and gophers during the application. Once the treatment is over the solution dissipates and turns into CO2 which is actually helpful for the surrounding plants (plants use CO2 as a primary element in photosynthesis!). Contact us today to learn about the great mole and gopher control services that we offer at Mole Trappers PDX!

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