When people think of gophers, they often picture the charming rodent from the 1980 cult-comedy, Caddyshack. Although the film used an animatronic puppet, it accurately captured the likeness of this fascinating creature. On the other hand, moles are often associated with the well-known character from the classic book, The Wind in the Willows. Over time, both gophers and moles have been viewed as troublesome intruders capable of damaging lawns and gardens. However, a closer examination reveals that these subterranean mammals are quite different from each other in several ways. In this article, we will delve into the world of gophers and moles, uncovering seven key differences between these two captivating species.

Comparing Moles and Gophers


Moles are small mammals that can be found across Europe, Asia, and North America. They inhabit various environments such as grasslands, sand dunes, and wooded areas.

Shrew Moles

Shrew moles are even smaller than regular moles. They consist of both Asian shrew moles and the American shrew mole, which is the smallest mole species. These creatures are distributed throughout China, Taiwan, India, and Southeast Asia.


Desmans are a unique type of mole adapted for an aquatic lifestyle. They have webbed feet for diving underwater and can be found in Russia and the northwest Iberian peninsula, as well as the Pyrenees. Unlike other moles, they do not dig tunnels underground.

Moles Gophers
Size 4 to 7 inches long, 2.5 to 4.6 ounces 6 to 8 inches long, 0.5 to 2.2 pounds
Lifespan 3 to 6 years 1 to 3 years
Geography North America, Europe, Asia North and Central America
Habitat Grasslands, sand dunes, wooded areas Woodlands, forests, plains, grassy areas
Taxonomy Order: Eulipotyphla, Family: Talpidae Order: Rodentia, Family: Geomyidae
Body Brown, grey, or golden fur, small eyes and pointed snout, reduced hindlimbs, and short, powerful forelimbs with an extra thumb. Generally brown with large cheek pouches that can turn inside out. Utilize teeth and claws for digging.
Diet Worms, insects, grubs Roots, shrubs, vegetables
Tunnels 3 to 12 inches below ground, extending 1 to 2 acres, nesting areas 3 feet below ground, cone-shaped mounds 6 to 18 inches below ground, extending 200 to 2,000 square feet, nesting and food storage up to 6 feet deep, crescent-shaped mounds

In summary, moles and gophers are both subterranean mammals that differ in size, geography, habitat, and diet. Moles are generally smaller and reside in various habitats across North America, Europe, and Asia, while gophers are found mainly in North and Central America. Moles primarily feed on worms, insects, and grubs, whereas gophers consume roots, shrubs, and vegetables. The tunnel systems they create are also distinct in terms of depth, size, and mound shape.

The 7 Key Differences Between Moles and Gophers

Size Comparison: Moles vs Gophers

Gophers are generally larger than moles, averaging between 6-8 inches in length, while moles measure around 4-7 inches. Gophers also weigh more, ranging from 0.5-1 pound and sometimes reaching 2.2 pounds; moles, in comparison, only weigh 2.5-4.6 ounces or 0.25 pounds1.

Lifespan: Moles vs Gophers

Gophers typically live 1-3 years in the wild, with some reaching up to 5 years. Moles have a longer lifespan, living 3 to 6 years in the wild2.

Geographic Distribution: Moles vs Gophers

Moles are more widely distributed, inhabiting every continent except South America and Antarctica. Gophers have a more limited range, found only in North and Central America3. Both species enjoy similar habitats, such as wooded areas, forests, plains, and grasslands. Moles occasionally live in sand dunes as well.

Taxonomy: Moles vs Gophers

Gophers belong to the order Rodentia, sharing traits with pocket mice and kangaroo rats. Moles, however, are part of the order Eulipotyphla, having more in common with shrews4.

Body Features: Moles vs Gophers

Moles have short, velvety fur in colors ranging from brown to grey to golden, small eyes, and a pointed snout. They have powerful forelimbs for digging and a unique sixth thumb5. Gophers’ color depends on their native soil, often appearing brown. They have large, fur-lined cheek pouches, which earned them the nickname “pocket gophers”6.

Dietary Preferences: Moles vs Gophers

Moles are omnivores, mainly eating earthworms, insects, and grubs, while gophers are herbivores, enjoying shrubs, roots, and vegetables, and occasionally grazing on seeds and grasses when alternatives are scarce7.

Tunnel Systems: Moles vs Gophers

Moles dig their tunnels closer to the surface, generally between 3-12 inches deep, while gophers dig 6-18 inches below ground8. Gophers’ nests and food storage chambers can reach depths of 6 feet, whereas mole nests are usually around 3 feet deep. In terms of size, gopher warrens span 200-2,000 square feet, while moles can have a territory of 1-2 acres or over 80,000 square feet9. Gophers create crescent-shaped mounds, while moles make cone-shaped mounds.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Differences Between Moles and Gophers

Moles and gophers are both solitary creatures, preferring to live alone outside of breeding season. While they can be territorial, they occasionally share tunnels with other animals. Furthermore, multiple moles might end up sharing a tunnel system due to their expansive territories1.

Contrary to popular belief, neither moles nor gophers hibernate. They remain active throughout the year2. Additionally, both animals are not strictly nocturnal – they tend to be active during the day and sleep at night3.

Here are some important points about moles and gophers:

  • Damage: Moles and gophers can cause damage to yards and gardens with their digging habits4.

  • Control: To control these pests, use humane traps and avoid chemicals that may harm the environment5.

  • Pests vs. Beneficial: Moles can be beneficial for gardens as they aerate the soil and eat harmful insects. Gophers, on the other hand, may cause more harm by feeding on plants6.

  • Infestation: Prevent moles and gophers from entering your garden by installing barriers around the perimeter7.

  • Plant Damage: Gophers, in particular, can cause significant plant damage through their feeding habits8.

  • Trapping and Bait: Humane traps are effective for both moles and gophers. You may also deter gophers by blocking access to plants in your garden9.

  • Utility Cables: Both moles and gophers can potentially damage utility cables by digging around them[^10^].


  1. https://a-z-animals.com/blog/mole-vs-gopher-7-key-differences-explained/ 2

  2. https://www.terminix.com/blog/education/gopher-vs-mole/ 2

  3. https://www.crittercontrol.com/wildlife/gopher/gophers-vs-moles 2

  4. https://aftercuriosity.com/mole-vs-gopher-7-key-differences-explained/ 2

  5. https://www.angi.com/articles/moles-vs-gophers.htm 2

  6. https://www.terminix.com/blog/education/gopher-vs-mole/ 2

  7. https://a-z-animals.com/blog/mole-vs-gopher-7-key-differences-explained/ 2

  8. https://www.crittercontrol.com/wildlife/gopher/gophers-vs-moles 2

  9. https://www.angi.com/articles/moles-vs-gophers.htm 2

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