Of course, the destructive gopher hones in on what it prefers, my native plants.
|The Douglas iris in the upper left is the current gopher target.|
Our southern-California soil has a lot of clay.
|The gopher is kicking hard-packed clay up from under the sidewalk|
As it builds its underground highway it aerates the soil and mixes the sediments. It creates underground pathways for water to flow and roots to follow. The gopher’s earthen works even provide a protected highway for other animals such as worms, arthropods and especially amphibians.
The underground tunnels of pocket gophers enable salamanders and frogs to travel in a moisture controlled environment without the threat of dehydration. Remember in southern California we have six or more months without rainfall. Gopher tunnels enabled California slender salamanders to travel from my backyard down into the lower areas of the front yard.
Even sections of collapsed tunnel create homes for western fence lizards and alligator lizards.
If only the pocket gopher would eat plants I don’t want. Well, here’s the rub, it is. The root and bulb of this noxious oxalis (an African invasive) has been sheared off by the gnawing teeth of the pocket gopher.
|underside of oxalis with root sheared right off|
At Mt. Saint Helens, the pocket gopher is a hero. It would be a hero in my yard if...and here is the big if... if there were a medium-sized predator to control their overpopulating and devouring my entire garden. The coyote, red-tailed hawk and great horned owl seem to be focusing their efforts else where. That leaves me the task of being the predator controlling the gopher population. If the native iris are to survive–out comes the gopher trap.