What do Gophers Eat?

Gophers, also known as ground squirrels, eat more than half their body weight in food—particularly plant matter—each day. Before attempting to control or remove gophers, it is important to answer the question, what do gophers eat? In short, these rodent pests tend to eat any and all types of plants—be it grasses, trees, shrubs, bulbs, roots, seeds, or tubers. Gophers also eat vegetables that grow beneath the surface. They particularly enjoy peas, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Gophers also feed on large vegetables like carrots, garlic, and onions. They may be less drawn to yams, beets, and potatoes. They have also been known to eat cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. Gophers also eat earthworms or small, soft-bodied insects. These un-picky animals will devour lettuce but have an aversion to rhubarb; therefore, it’s a good idea for gardeners to plant their lettuce next to rhubarb.

Gophers may eat plants they see while looking for food—or a mate. The gopher typically gnaws the roots of a plant just beneath the soil, so the damage isn’t seen. They may also claim plants by pulling them down into their home just below the surface.  Once in a while gophers will make a full-body appearance above the surface to eat plants.

Knowing what gophers won’t eat may be helpful in planting a garden that won’t get devoured by gophers. While they will eat almost anything in their path if they’re hungry enough, the gophers’ least favorite foods include a variety of flowers and garlic. They also dislike peas and beans because the taste of these root systems has an unappealing taste to them. They also tend to shy away from grains such as oats and corn—their roots systems are too thick. Squashes rarely get touched by gophers, as do peppers, tomatillo, berries, and tomatoes. Gophers may, however, eat at the root system of a tomato if there is a shortage of food. Fruit trees are usually safe after three years. Watch out, though. The roots of a young tree are a special treat for gophers to eat!