Mounds, Tunnels and Cave-Ins

We have two bits of evidence indicating we have life below ground.  When we first moved out here the mounds of new dirt were obvious.  They are everywhere all across the property.  They are several inches tall and 8" or larger in diameter often with a horseshoe shape and a divot toward the center.  They are easily distinguished from fire ant mounds which look much more granular and dangerous.  We also have tunnels that run just under the surface and can be seen by the dirt pushed up but not really broken.  Like any newbie to the area I asked people at the feed store what these were.  I was told one was a gopher and the other was a mole.  The gophers make the dirt mounds and eat tender plant roots so they could destroy my garden, and moles make the snake shaped tunnels and they eat earthworms and grubs so they are good to have in the garden.

I took these pictures on my morning walk a couple of days ago.  They look undisturbed because I didn't disturb them.  The interesting thing is when you happen to step on either the dirt mound or more spectacularly the tunnels, they cave in.  It's not like prairie dog burrows that are large and deep and you could break your ankle but it's somewhat startling to have the ground disappear beneath your feet.

I haven't had this happen to me before so I think it may have something to do with the long drought followed by the rain we've had recently.  Now that it's happened quite a few times, I'm not startled by it.  It does leave unsightly holes but the next rain should smooth them out.

When I got ready to write this blog I decided to do some fact checking on gophers and moles.  The term gopher can refer to several burrowing animals including ground squirrels and prairie dogs so the more correct term for what I have is Pocket Gopher.  The pictures look sort of like the odd body parts the cats leave for me.  Of course, that makes for a difficult comparison in any case.   I know I've never seen an animal that looks like the pictures of moles, in pieces or not but since they do make the kinds of tunnels we have here I can only assume my cats haven't brought me any.

In the interested of having a beautiful and flawless yard, it would be nice if all the gophers and moles would move next door.  But this is a working ranch so flawless is never a goal.  As long as the holes and tunnels aren't large enough or deep enough to hurt any of the livestock, I'm more than happy to live and let live.