Jake, the mighty gopher hunter
Jake, the mighty gopher hunter

Jake is a great mole hunter. The other day, I saw him stop and stare at a spot on the ground. For minutes he just stood there, cocking his head back and forth. Finally, about a foot from his nose, I saw the ground begin to tremble and then bulge upwards. It was like a little zombie mole was about to drag itself from its evil lair. I thought, “If I had a pitchfork, I’d just stab the little guy.” Harsh, I know. But moles and gophers are the bane of a grape farmer’s existence.

Gophers are bad enough. Gophers are vegetarians and eat roots, trees, shrubs, grass and plants. Fortunately, they’re not hard to trap, and Clay has become a gopher-trapping expert due to the large colony that seems to have developed in our vineyard. Their mounds are easy to identify and they have large tunnels, which they close off after coming to the surface. A gopher will come to investigate an open tunnel within minutes, so putting a trap in its way will guarantee a capture.

But moles are little, devious, tricksy devils. Moles are insectivores, so they only eat worms, grubs and other subterranean folk. The problem is that because moles are small, their tunnels are small. It’s really difficult to locate the tunnel and get a trap in there. While you’re fiddling around with the equipment, they’re happily tunneling to another part of your property.

A gopher will dig a hole much like a dog, digging with its front legs and long teeth, throwing the dirt out behind it. What you will see is a mound in a horseshoe-like configuration made of very fine dirt. A mole just pushes the dirt up with its large, paddle-like front feet, so the dirt is left in clods.

Moles can disturb plants’ root systems, but primarily they just leave your yard a big mess. Now, we don’t have a yard, per se, but we like the look of the open space without having a series of eruptions every five feet. And although Jake is a great hunter, his hunting can leave large holes and thrown dirt where he has dug down to get to them. Because of this, we have discouraged him.

I haven’t figured out a solution to our below-ground pest problem. But I will prevail. Until then, it’s just my dog, my pitchfork and me.