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A Survivalist’s Guide To The Pocket Gopher

When the SHTF and you are out of food, beggars can’t be choosers. You cannot eat food that will get you or your companions sick. But, to survive, you will need to be open-minded when it comes to food. One overlooked protein source is the gopher. (AKA-“Pocket Gopher). Gophers are abundant in North America and Central America, and the gopher population is abundant.

Spoiler- To answer the initial question-Yes, gopher meat is edible, and gopher meat is known to taste rather well.

What Can You Expect Here?

Knowing that the gopher is edible is one thing. You must also know how to find, kill, and prep the pocket gopher for your meal. So, this article will do the following:

1.        Gopher 101-Give you a brief overview of this creature.

2.        Location-Tell you the best place to find them.

3.        Prep-Advice on both prepping the gopher for your meal.

Gopher 101

Geographic Area

In North America and Central America, over 41 different species are related to the gopher.  The North American gopher (pocket gopher) will most likely live in the Great Plains geographic area from the Canadian border down to Texas. In Central America, the gopher is mainly in Mexico.


The gopher generally looks the same with brown-black fur, beady eyes, and small ears. Gophers are around five to 14 inches long and weigh from one pound to a bit over two pounds.

What Do They Eat?

The gopher is a herbivore that eats leaves, stems, plant tubes, bulbs, and seeds. Their favorite food is dandelions, various grasses, and alfalfa. Because of this diet, these burrowing pests can cause extensive damage to your lawn, and garden.

Where Do They Like to Live?

As I stated before, there are over 41 species of gopher. As a result, some gopher species live in desert climates and some in the mountains. The pocket gopher, most found in the United States, is most likely found in pastures and rangeland. They are also known to invade prized flower beds and lawns.

Gophers mainly live underground in an intricate burrow system of tunnels. The main living requirement for all gophers is that there must be soft, sandy soil, which they can burrow into.

What Are Natural Gopher Predators?

Gophers have the same enemies as most other rodents. I.E. Barn owls and snakes both like to feast on the gopher.

How Can You Find Gophers?

For many people, a gopher, unfortunately, finds them. And, in a survival situation, that likely could be the case with you. But as these creatures live and feed underground, it can be tough to find them.

What is a Sign of a Gopher Infestation?

The number one sign of gopher activity is dirt mounds near areas near-dead dying or not vegetation. The best examples of this would be a dirt mound on a lawn with zero or dead or brown grass near the gopher mound. Other signs are unhealthy plants, which can include trees. (Pocket Gophers love too much on plant roots.

How To Harvest a Gopher?

According to Oklahoma State University, there are seven ways to eliminate gophers, which are trapping, poisoning, flooding, gassing, encouraging predators, and removal. Also, However, assuming you want to eat them afterward, trapping is your only option.

What About Shooting?-Shooting a gopher is possible. But, not the best way as gophers spends most of their time underground in their intricate tunnels. Additionally, they tend to eat inside of their gopher tunnels. So, you’ll have to wait for them to show up and then take aim.

Primitive Small Game Traps

Numerous videos on Youtube show primitive trapping methods. The video below shows how to trap a gopher with minimal equipment. So, I will not go over primitive or wilderness survival trapping. Instead, I will introduce you to common and recommended man-made traps.

The Modern-Day Gopher Trap

According to Oklahoma State University, there are seven ways to eliminate gophers, which are trapping, poisoning, flooding, gassing, encouraging predators, and removal. Also, However, assuming you want to eat them afterward, trapping is your only option.

When Should the Trap Be Set?

You need to set up and visit your traps morning and evening hours.

Types of Traps

Oklahoma State University recommends the Maccabee Steel Spring Trap, which is shown below:

Macabee Snap Trap For Gophers 1 pk

Macabee Steel Spring Trap


The Black Hole Spring Trap, shown below, is recommended by a few pest control companies.

Black Hole Trap

Black Holde Gopher Trap



The Black Box Trap, which uses a choker loop, is also recommended.

The Black Box Gopher Trap

Black Box Gopher Trap

Are Gophers Edible?

Gophers are edible. And I know this sounds like a cliche. They taste like chicken, and they are just as nutritious as other common types of frequently eaten meat. (i.e., Pork, beef, etc.)

Best Practices

You need to remember that gophers are rodents. As such, they can carry common, and sometimes deadly, virus borne,

Some of the diseases that the gopher might be affected with are Hanta Virus, Rabies, and Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (AKA-“LCM”).

Hanta Virus has a 38% death rate, and Rabies is especially deadly. Under normal circumstances, LCM will not kill you. But, feeling like crap during a disaster is the last thing you will want to occur.

How Are These Diseases Transmitted to Humans?

A bite wound causes Rabies. So, as the gopher is an underground animal, it is unlikely that you will be bitten. So, you should likely not have to worry about rabies. However, the Hanta Virus and LCM are caused by gopher urine and feces.


As with any wild game, you ensure that the gopher is thoroughly rinsed with water. Also, to be extra safe, you should wear gloves while prepping the gopher for eating.


Gopher Prep

After killing this furry varmint, what do you do? The good news is that preparing a gopher for your dinner is quite simple. And to help you do it, I’ve included a video right above. To summarize this video, all you have to do is prep a gopher for a meal.

Pocket Gopher Prep

Equipment Needed


1.        Cut Head- Slice the head off with your knife. You can discard the head or use the head as bait for another gopher.

2.        Slice The Belly-Start at the tail end of the gopher and slice through the stomach and end where you cut the head off.

3.        Remove the Guts-After the belly is split open, you begin to remove the gopher guts. You can either discard the guts or keep specific organs for bait or for eating (The below video will explain this better.)

Cooking Them

There are a few gopher recipes on the internet. (The above video shows you one way to cook them). The following is a link to gopher stew.

Gopher Stew