Do Gophers Hibernate? (When Do They Sleep?)

You might wonder if gophers hibernate, especially if you often notice them on your property. So many different animals hibernate, after all, so why wouldn’t gophers?

Well, surprising as it sounds, gophers don’t hibernate. They’re more active during the spring and fall, then dig deeper into the ground during the winter. That way, the gophers stay below the frost line where the earth doesn’t freeze. 

Many people mistake gophers for hibernating because they’re active in certain parts of the year and because you don’t see them much in winter, it is not a bad guess.

So, while gophers don’t hibernate, you’ll still want to learn more about them and you are in the right place!

These animals have quite complicated sleeping habit but do sleep more in the winter.  

Do Gophers Go Away in the Winter?

While you might not see any gophers during the winter, that doesn’t mean they left. Gophers dig below the frost line in the winter to stay out of the frozen areas of the ground. 

Since gophers don’t hibernate, they still need to have access to food during the winter season. They’ll feed on the roots of plants near their tunnels and burrows, so they don’t have to scavenge out too far for food. Many will store food in special chambers they dig out too.

They may also eat earthworms and insects that accidentally dig or fall into their tunnels!

However, if the gophers live on your property, they’ll cause considerable unseen damage during the winter. As they eat the roots of grass and other plants, they wither. If you have a garden that you keep during the winter, you’ll want to watch it closely for signs of gopher damage. 

In short, gophers don’t disappear during the winter. Instead, these animals will hunt for food below the ground’s surface. Since insects aren’t as active in the winter, gophers will mostly turn to plant roots and evergreen plants near the opening as their primary food source.

Surprisingly, they can actually dig through even frosty soils that are harder than you can dig through!

What Months Are Gophers Most Active?

Gophers tend to be the most active in the spring and the fall seasons. They don’t hibernate, so they’re active year-round but are much more noticeable during those times. So, you’ll notice more gopher activity in mid to late March.

During the spring, the soil thaws and becomes easier for the gophers to dig through. They’ll spend time creating burrows and tunnels to have them for the upcoming cold months.

Gophers are most active in the warmer months of the year.

Gophers have their mating season in early spring when you’re most likely to see them above the ground. Outside of that period, you’re not likely to see them at all.

However, if you see mounds on your property, you’ll know they’re there. Like groundhogs, gophers are so active in the early spring that they can build up to three different gopher mounds a day during this time. 

Gopher activity also increases in the spring because the soil meets perfect digging conditions. The animals become active again in the fall when they need to prepare deeper tunnels for the approaching cold winter months.

When Do Gophers Sleep?

Gophers can be active during any part of the day and night! They sleep depending on the season instead of the time of day.

They will sleep at any time but mostly during the daytime and they are usually most active around dusk and dawn. They tend to dig their tunnels at dusk when the soil is softest – especially during wintertime!

So, you might see them when the sun’s up in the spring, but they change their sleeping patterns in the fall. The gopher isn’t picky about when they sleep during the day, but in the summer they have a similar pattern to most other animals where they sleep at night and forage during the day.

Gophers usually are the most active during dawn and dusk so that they can be asleep or resting during any other time of the day.

They tend to stop and sleep when they feel tired, no matter how early or late it is. However, gophers won’t sleep above ground and need to feel secure while they rest.

These animals likely have sleeping patterns that are strange to us because they spend a majority of their life underground. The sun can’t wake them up there, so they’ll wake up when they feel well-rested.

Overall, gophers can sleep at any time! As long as the gophers feel safe in their tunnel system, there’s a chance they could get tired and sleep at any moment.

Do Gophers Sleep During the Day or at Night? (Are They Nocturnal?)

In the winter when it is relatively dark, gophers don’t specifically sleep during the day or the night. But in the summer, spring, and fall they mostly sleep during the day.

However, if they get tired at any time and can find a secure place to rest, they’ll sleep. Since they sleep underground, they don’t have the sunlight to tell them when to go to bed. Especially in winter, when they rarely get out.

Gophers tend to be nocturnal, but in the winter day and night melt together for them!

These animals are active for about nine hours per day in summertime and will spend the rest of their time resting. Depending on the gopher’s sleep cycle, they could be asleep during the day or night, or even a mix of both.

Despite popular belief, gophers aren’t strictly nocturnal. These creatures can be very active during the day since it’s still dark underground. However, gophers are most likely to be awake at night and in the early afternoon.

In short, gophers do sleep quite often but don’t specifically prefer sleeping during the day or night. You can find them active anytime since the sun doesn’t reach their tunnels and burrows. Because of this, they don’t have a natural preference for when they need to go to bed.

How to prevent gophers from sleeping in your yard!

There are several methods for keeping gophers away from your flowering plants or vegetable garden.

Hand Keeping gopher away
Here comes my favorite tips to keep gophers at bay without ever risking getting bitten by one.

Here is a list of my favorite methods to keep gophers away in summer, spring, fall, and winter time!

1. Use Ultrasonic Sound Emitters (My favorite!)

My absolute favorite invention to keep pests away from my backyard are these cool solar-powered ultrasonic sound emitters that you can buy right off Amazon!

They send out loud or consistent noises (that only they can hear) that will scare them away or at least shorten their visits significantly!

In my experience, they really work, and the solar panels on top save you the time and money of changing batteries all the time.  

Groundhogs and gophers, as well as other animals that may invade your garden, tend to have very good hearing.

My favorite ultrasonic emitters. Click to read more at Amazon.

2. Fencing to keep them out

Fencing is the best way to keep gophers away from vegetables. Gopher-proof fencing is typically made out of poly wire, plastic mesh, or heavy-gauge wire netting.

A gopher fence to protect your plants!

You can build a simple fence to surround an entire garden or yard, or you can create individual small enclosures for each vegetable plant in the garden.

3. Water and Fertilizer System

If you have a drip irrigation or a sprinkler system in your yard, then you can trick gophers into thinking that heavy rain is coming and that the entire area is flooded because of all the moisture.

This will discourage gophers from digging up your veggies because they prefer to stay dry when possible and because they cannot breathe in flooded tunnels!

If you don’t have a drip irrigation system then you can water your vegetable garden a bit more than usual when gophers are around. This will keep the gophers away, just like flooding the entire yard would.

4. Motion-activated sprinklers

Like most animals, gophers hate surprises, and they will run away if suddenly sprayed with water. I like this solution because it is humane, simple, effective, and does not require much time to set up and there are many models to choose from.

My favorite sprinkler option here is the Havahart 5277.

5. Gopher Traps

Use gopher traps to catch and kill gophers on the ground before they can eat your vegetables.

There are several types of simple traps that you can use, but most work best if you set them after the gophers have already started chewing on your plants.

I prefer those that catch them alive, so you can drive them far away and set them free.

For more inspiration on how to keep gophers out of your yard, see my latest post for a full and updated list of the most effective means of keeping gophers and groundhogs out of your yard.

Conclusion

Gophers, as any homeowner knows, can easily damage lawns and gardens. While gophers might not hibernate, they do dig deep tunnels and burrows to stay out of the frozen ground.

These burrows are difficult to see unless you see mounds spread across the yard. Gophers, especially in the spring, build these mounds so they can stay warm overnight. In the fall, they’ll do it to help prepare for the winter ahead.

Gophers hide underground during the winter, so they’ll spend as much time as possible building these tunnels and excavating the new tunnels before winter starts.

Since these areas are large, they can take the gopher several days to dig! However, they’re worth it since they help the gopher survive the harsh, winter months.

So whereas gophers don’t hibernate, they change their daily sleeping patterns in winter. They spend most of their lives in underground tunnels and burrows, so their body uses the sunlight to know when to go to bed.

What might take you several hours of adjustment takes them days to adjust to! Since gophers prefer darker areas when they sleep, they go underground and stay there.