Photo by: E. Williams

Modifications to increase utility of trapping for pocket gopher management

  • Gophinator traps are still the most effective option that have been tested.
  • Adding a cable restraint to the front of the Macabee trap captured larger pocket gophers, allowing trappers to more effectively use this common trap.
  • Human scent did not deter pocket gophers from entering the trap.

Modifications to increase utility of trapping for pocket gopher management

Trapping is very useful and an effective tool for managing damaging pocket gophers. Methods to increase trapping effectiveness are in high demand. The Gophinator trap previously proved more efficient than the Macabee trap, primarily because it captures larger pocket gophers more effectively. However, the Macabee trap is still popular and widely used, especially given the large stockpiles of these traps held by land managers and pest control operators.

With so many Macabee traps available, Affiliated IPM Advisor Niamh Quinn wanted to make these traps work better. Quinn, Roger Baldwin, Ryan Meinerz, and Steve Orloff from UC Cooperative Extension, Angela Chapman from California State University Channel Islands, and Chris Kofron from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added a cable restraint to the front of the Macabee trap. They tested the visitation rate of pocket gophers and capture efficiency of the Gophinator trap and modified Macabee trap. The presence of human scent was also tested to determine if it influenced capture efficiency and visitation rates. 

Trapping is a safe and effective method for protecting pasture, agricultural fields, orchards, and gardens from pocket gophers.

Quinn and the other researchers found that the Gophinator trap was still the most effective option, even when compared to the modified Macabee. However, the modification to the Macabee trap did increase the capture efficiency of larger pocket gophers when compared to the standard Macabee. Interestingly, the unmodified Macabee trap was more effective against small juvenile pocket gophers so unmodified traps should still be used for smaller gophers. Using gloves to mask human scent did not impact capture efficiency or visitation rate.

It is expected that trappers will use this information to better select appropriate trap types, which can lead to increased effectiveness of pocket gopher trapping programs. The strengthened partnership between UC, California State University and US Fish and Wildlife Service was another positive outcome from this project.

 Photo by: R. Meinerz
The modified Macabee trap was tested, but the Gophinator trap still performs better.