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What Is the Difference Between Moles, Voles, and Gophers?

A mole emerging from a dirt hole in the ground.

When your garden starts looking like a battlefield, filled with mounds of dirt and mysterious tunnels, it’s not always easy to know who the culprit is. Are moles, voles, or gophers to blame for the havoc in your yard? Understanding the difference between moles, voles, and gophers can help you identify your garden’s uninvited guests and find the right strategy to deal with them.

While these small mammals might seem similar at first glance, they have distinct characteristics and behaviors that set them apart. Let’s dig deeper into the world of these burrowing pests and learn how to keep our gardens safe and healthy.

Gophers vs. Moles vs. Voles

Are you concerned that you might be facing a gopher infestation, or are there moles or voles causing trouble in your yard? These animals are common pests, and correctly identifying moles, voles, and gophers is crucial for determining the best approach to manage them.

Let’s explore the key characteristics of gophers vs. moles vs. voles so you can identify which pest is invading your space.


Moles are small, insect-eating mammals with velvety fur and very poor eyesight. They are often mistaken for other burrowing animals, but there are a few key traits to help identify them:

  • Physical Appearance: Moles have a pointed snout, tiny eyes, and large, paddle-like front paws designed for digging.
  • Tunnels and Mounds: Moles create extensive underground tunnels to hunt for their primary food source: insects like grubs and worms. The mole tunnels often result in raised ridges in the soil, with occasional mole mounds, which are volcano-shaped piles of dirt.


Voles, also known as meadow mice or field mice, are small rodents that look more like mice than moles or gophers. Here’s how you can spot them:

  • Physical Appearance: Voles have compact, rounded bodies, short tails, and small ears. They resemble house mice but are sturdier.
  • Diet and Damage: Unlike moles, voles are herbivores. They eat plants, and their presence is marked by chewed grass and plants, as well as small holes in the ground that lead to their surface tunnels.


Of course, the most notable difference between moles, voles, and gophers is their appearance. Gophers, often called pocket gophers due to their fur-lined cheek pouches, are larger than moles and voles. They create significant damage in gardens and lawns:

  • Physical Appearance: Gophers have brown fur, large cheek pouches for carrying food, and strong, clawed front paws.
  • Tunnels and Mounds: The tunnels they dig are deeper and less visible than mole tunnels. However, gopher mounds are a clear sign, often seen as fan-shaped or crescent piles of soil on the surface.

The Impact on Your Garden

The difference between moles, voles, and gophers is not just in their appearance but also in how they interact with your garden ecosystem.

  • Moles are beneficial in some ways, aerating the soil and eating destructive insects. However, their tunnels can damage plant roots and create unsightly ridges in your lawn.
  • Voles can wreak havoc on your vegetation, damaging flower beds, shrubs, and tree roots with their gnawing.
  • Gophers can destroy a garden from below, eating roots, bulbs, and tubers, and their mounds can ruin the look of your lawn.

Identifying and Controlling These Burrowing Pests

To identify which animal is causing damage in your garden, look for these signs:

  • Mole damage is characterized by raised tunnels and occasional mounds.
  • Vole damage includes gnawed plants, especially near ground level, and visible paths through the grass.
  • Gopher damage involves deeper tunnels and larger, fan-shaped mounds.

Control Strategies

Now that you know the difference between moles, voles, and gophers and can identify them, it’s time to learn how to control these pests. There are a few strategies you can use:

  • Trapping: Setting traps is one of the most effective ways to control moles and gophers. For voles, mouse traps can work.
  • Repellents: Various repellents are available to repel moles and voles, but their effectiveness can vary.
  • Exclusion: Using hardware cloth or other barriers can prevent gophers and voles from accessing specific areas like flower beds or vegetable gardens.

Other Pests to Watch Out For

While moles, voles, and gophers are the stars of underground garden drama, other small pests like ants, termites, and cockroaches can also threaten your home and garden. These insects can be just as destructive, if not more so, than the burrowing animals we’ve discussed.

For example, a termite infestation can compromise the structural integrity of your home, while ants and cockroaches can contaminate food and spread disease. Unlike shy creatures like moles and voles, these insects often invade in large numbers, creating a different kind of headache for homeowners.

When to Call a Professional

If you’re facing an unmanageable problem with pests in your home or yard, it might be time to call in the professionals. At Dustin Pest Control, we specialize in dealing with a variety of pests that are more than just a nuisance. Our targeted services can help keep your living spaces safe and comfortable.

For instance, our expertise in cockroach, ant, mosquito, bed bug, and termite control in Fresno, CA, highlights our commitment to solving pest issues efficiently. We understand that every pest challenge is unique and requires a tailored approach.

Schedule Your Pest Control Service Today

Don’t let pests take over your home and garden. Whether you’re dealing with the relentless march of termites or the stealthy encroachment of bed bugs in California, Dustin Pest Control has the expertise to handle these issues swiftly. Remember, insects can be just as destructive as gophers, moles, and voles if not addressed properly.

Contact us today to schedule a comprehensive pest control service and reclaim the comfort and safety of your home!

Written by Dustin Pest Control

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