We’ve all been there. That embarrassing moment when somebody asks you what the difference between gopher, a vole, and a mole is. There is no need to be ashamed. In fact, an important part of any 12 step process involves admitting that you need help. That’s why you come to read Barrier’s Pest Control’s blog.

So what is the difference? Gophers are relatively large rodents (Half pound, up to 8 inches long) that tunnel through the ground, leaving large semicircular or crescent shaped mounds (1 to 2 feet in diameter). Here’s a picture of a lovely gopher:


And his/her mound:

Gopher Mound

More often than not, gophers are found in rural areas near alfalfa or other agricultural fields, but can often be found in turfgrass or ornamental areas in landscapes – where they cause problems, especially for Carl in Caddyshack.

Gophers feed on roots of plants, often killing them. They also can create divots or depressions in the earth where tunnel systems have collapsed, creating hazards for people and livestock.

Voles are actually much smaller than gophers, but still can be up to 7 inches long. They are also known as meadow mice, and to the untrained pest-control eye, can simply look like a long mouse. Here is a mug shot of one:


Voles burrow, but do not leave the dirt piled up in mounds. The burrow openings are about the size of a silver dollar, and they also create characteristic runways on the surface of the ground among grass or any like material:

Vole Runways

Vole Hole

Moles very uncommon in the Boise area. In fact, to my knowledge I have never seen a mole problem in my 10 years of pest-control experience. Moles on faces, are quite a different story however. But that’s for different time and a different blog.

Moles are about 7 inches long, and weigh about a third of a pound. Like gophers, moles tunnel underground, but their diet differs greatly from gophers: they predominantly eat insects and earthworms.

Also like gophers, Moles create mounds of dirt that they push above ground as they excavate their tunnels. The way to tell the difference between a mole mound and a gopher mound is that mole mounds are circular, compared to pocket gophers, which are crescent shaped or semicircular.

Let’s review.  Moles aren’t in the Boise area, so let’s just start there.  But if they were, you could tell the difference by looking at the mounds.  Are they round, or semi-circular?  If they are round, it’s probably a Mole, if crescent shaped, it’s probably a Gopher.  If you don’t see mounds, but little runways and silver dollar sized holes like are pictured above, it’s a Vole!

So there you have it.  You no longer have to have that painfully awkward moment when somebody asks you the difference between gophers, voles, and moles?  You can now answer resolutely and with pride.  However, you still have to complete the rest of your 12-step process.

You’re welcome.