Gopher broke! – A true story

So, I spend $5000 on a lawn and irrigation system and it is destroyed in two weeks. How? Pocket gophers and “The Great Gopher Hunter” my dog. Let me start by saying that I live next to a vacant lot and the scenario stated above happened a few years ago. I then just gave up on a nice yard and have been raking dirt ever since.

I recently sat in on a continuing education lecture for the technicians about gophers. We actually have a few different type of underground mammal pests in the area, and how the mounds are built and where the tunnels are located are how you identify if it is a Pocket Gopher, the most common and what I have in my yard, a vole, a ground squirrel, or a mole. Yes, those are four distinct possibilities.

Fresh Pocket Gopher mound
Fresh Pocket Gopher mound

The pocket gopher leaves mounds of dirt behind in a horseshoe or heart shape with a plugged hole off to one side. A vole has an open hole with “runways” leading from them. Moles are mainly around the coastal regions and their mounds are more volcano shaped and their tunnels are closer to the surface. Ground Squirrels are larger softball size holes with an open entrance and an open exit 10-15 feet away. Each type of varmint has its own best control solutions.

One gopher, many mounds
One gopher, many mounds

For this blogs purpose, we will focus on the Pocket gopher. In irrigated soil one gopher can create several mounds in a day all year round! They do not hibernate and can be active any time of day or night. They live in a burrow system that can cover an area of up to 2,000 square feet. They eat plants and roots and their feeding burrow is usually 6-12 inches below ground. The nest and food storage can be as deep as 6 feet. In addition to killing gardens, shrubs and lawns, these pests will gnaw through irrigation systems that are in their way to the surface.

Pocket gopher hole, no mound
Pocket gopher hole, no mound

One gopher can do hundreds to (in my case) thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. They usually live alone within their burrow system, except during breeding and rearing time when a mating pair will live together. In warmer areas like San Diego County, gophers can produce up to 3 litters a year, with each litter averaging 5-6 young who will reach sexual maturity in a year and live for about 3 years. There can be as high as 60 or more gophers per acre in an irrigated field.

Probing in tunnels next to mound.
Probing in tunnel next to mound.

To successfully control gophers, the sooner you detect their presence and take control measures the better. Most of the time our technicians will control gophers through baiting, or trapping if you have digging pets like mine. You will most likely see the technician probing around the mound looking for the best spot to place the bait or trap.

Probe in center of system
Probe in center of system

Baiting is more cost effective, less damaging to lawns and gardens and results can be seen in as little 3 days depending on how quickly the gopher eats it. Best results are usually in about 7-10 days so patience is needed. In situations like mine, trapping was the best option. The technician may dig to widen the holes in order to place the traps, and will have to return frequently to check them which is reflected in the cost.

What not to do: Do NOT use a hose to flood out the gophers. First, a regular garden hose will take a long time to fill up 2000 square feet of tunnels and is a waste of water in this drought. Second, flooding the tunnels may cause erosion and create deep holes creating more damage and an unsafe walking area. Third, if the tunnels lead to a neighboring yard and they have baited, it can flush the bait to the surface where pets may eat it and die.

Other methods to control gophers are exclusion, fumigation and gas explosions.  The latter 2 are illegal around homes, but can still be done by professionals with special use permits in large fields. I chose partial exclusion as a deterrent when I recently had snake mesh attached to my fence going 2 feet down to the harder soil and one foot above ground. You can screen in garden beds, or install wire baskets, which you can make at home or buy commercially, at the same time you are putting the plants into the ground. If you use wire, use one that is light gauge and only for shrubs and trees that will need protection while young. Leave enough room to allow for the roots to grow. Galvanized wire provides the longest-lasting protection. Six to 8 inches of coarse gravel 1 inch or more in diameter around underground sprinkler lines or utility cables also can deter gophers. You can also create a root and vegetation free thick boarder around lawns and gardens.

When my gopher issues began, I decided to take an organic approach to let my dog take care of my gopher problem then re-sod. The issue with that was I had gopher holes and dog holes and the gophers came back. My proud hunter would leave dead bodies for me to find in unique places, and I lost the use of my yard and the irrigation system was destroyed. This time, trapping and some exclusion from professionals will keep my yard usable this year and save me money on landscape repairs.

Once control of the gophers have been maintained, it is important to keep an eye out for re-infestation. New gophers can move back in at any time and it is much easier to control one or two gophers than families.  Adding a gopher program to your regular ants and spider maintenance is easy and doesn’t cost as much as you may think. Talk to your technician about it today.

Blog by Rainy Broms
Pictures by Tony Perez 1/18/2016

Our Team

Pestmaster Services of San Diego County is proud to introduce you to our team. We work hard, train hard, have fun and are looking forward to years of growth together with customer satisfaction as our main goal. Our team is the number one reason why Pestmaster Services is the right choice!

From left to right:

Doug KaDellDoug KaDell has been an awesome addition to our team. He came to us in June 2015 with over 20 years of experience, his Branch 2 Pest Control and Branch 3 Termite licenses. Doug is one technician who knows his stuff and has really turned into our “go to” guy! He is giving Tony competition in his Yelp and Google+ reviews. You will see Doug out in the field North County Inland, Temecula, Murrieta and Fallbrook, as well as the Del Mar Fairgrounds.


Nick226x154Nick Georgie is our newest member of our Pest Control Team. You may have seen him riding along with Doug and Tony over the summer as he underwent our strict and thorough training. He earned his Pest and Termite Control Applicator licenses and is now on his own route mainly servicing our commercial properties. Nick can also be seen working with our Termite Team and at some of our government sites while studying for his Branch 2.


Bart VanDiepenBart VanDiepen is the Owner, Operator and Termite Inspector of Pestmaster Services. His 30 years of experience plus his focus on high value and quality service sets the tone for the company. He leads by example and creates an environment for everyone to feel successful and grow as far as they choose to grow. Bart has a passion for the industry and is always looking at new technology with a critical and hopeful eye. He brings new ideas and innovations to the meetings and values his employee’s input.


Amy226x205Amy Medina has recently celebrated 20 years as the Office Manager with Pestmaster Services. When you call, it is most likely her voice you will be hearing on the other end of the line. She is Bart’s right hand and manages all the crew, plus all the client accounts. Let’s face it, one paragraph cannot describe what she does. We would be lost without our Amy!

Nichole Caruthers started with Pestmaster Services in February 2016 as the Bookkeeper and Marketing Administrator.  Nichole also assists Bart, Amy and the company wherever needed. Soon you will find her videos online telling you all she has learned about the Pest Control Industry. Before joining Pestmaster Nichole Served 6 years in the United States Marine Corps and later went on to graduate with a Bachelors in Accounting.

Tony226x185Tony Perez started with Pestmaster Services in October 2014. He was promoted to Field Manager in July 2015. He has over 20 years of experience, his Branch 2 Pest Control license and is certified in EcoWise. You will find Tony at some of our hospitals and out in the field around the 52 Freeway and South. He has the most reviews on Yelp and Google+ and you can read more about him HERE.


Tim Evans

Tim Evans is a superstar with almost 10 years of experience, his Branch 2 and 3 Licenses and a history of training others in the industry. Starting with Pestmaster Services in July 2015, Tim is assisting Tony in our ongoing monthly training meetings and can be found North County Coastal and at government sites.


Juan PerezJuan Perez has been with Pestmaster Services Termite Repair Team since February 2006. This man knows no limits and is always working hard as one of our two carpenters doing termite repair and can also be seen riding along our Pest Control Team and helping where he can.



Victor ArmijoVictor Armijo, our newest carpenter, has years of experience and came highly recommended. In addition to working on our Termite Repair Team, he has been remodeling our office with his tremendous skills. Victor is studying for his Pest Control Applicator license and will be assisting in Termite Treatments and at some of our government and commercial sites as well.

Meet Tony Perez

Tony Perez

Congratulations Tony on being our April employee of the month.  Tony has been working with us since October 2014. We are happy to have him on board and already have many rave reviews from our customers.

Tony came to us with 20 years Pest Control experience and 15 years Agriculture experience.   He is EcoWise Certified and able to help with ridding pests on your Organic fruiting trees, gardens and flower beds as well as your regular ants, spiders, and rodents.   He has a passion for customer service and taking time to educate and converse with the clients to find the best solution for your needs.

On a personal note, former Corporal Tony Perez had 3 tours as a combat veteran in the US Army. In his free time,you can either find him working on old beat up cars to make them new again, or taking his 5 dogs for walk on dogs beach. Yes, that is correct, 5 dogs!!! He loves rescue dogs and currently has 2 Chiweenies, 1 Chihuahua, 1 Maltese, and 1 Lab/Boxer mix. His fiancée Rochelle Gobert must be a saint!

Tony can be found working for Pestmaster Services at hospitals, military bases, and residential and commercial properties throughout San Diego County.

Honey, The Bees Are Home

Flying insects are swarming due to an early spring heat, especially the bees. We have received many questions about extermination vs. hive relocation. The main points to consider are safety, type of bee, and cost. While it is true that there is a pollinator decline across the nation, our county, especially in metropolitan areas, is not experiencing the lack of bee population.


Safety first. Reports show that about 80% of the bees in San Diego County have been Africanized. What that means, is that they tend to be more aggressive. While they have the same amount of venom as the European Honey Bee, they attack in swarms and will attack you with in 50 feet of their hive and pursue you for 1/4-1/2 a mile. If you are being attacked, your best bet is to seek shelter, like a car. Add that about 3% of the population are allergic to bees, there is a good reason to do a quick extermination in public parks, water meters and suburban neighborhoods.


Most people are not aware that we do offer relocation of hives. This can be more time consuming if we need to bait and trap them over the course of days or even weeks. If the hive is complete and we can capture the queen, it can be much faster, even same day. We also have the use of vacuums, but we find most of the hive is killed in that process, even with low pressure, and use it only when there is no alternative except extermination. It is always up to the owner of the property on which type of removal we do. Relocation is more costly than extermination, but those who have their minds on ecology prefer this method, and we are right there with you.


Swarming insects are best to be left alone. But once they start to nest in your home or garden, Pestmaster Services is the right choice to keep your family and neighborhood safe.

Source: San Diego Department of Agriculture Africanized Bee Document