Answer: Hardware cloth or screening will keep critters away from the roots of the plant, but eventually the roots will outgrow the protection and, you're right, could strangle the roots. Moles or gophers don't actually consume plant roots - they simply gnaw through them if they're in the way of their tunneling. It isn't likely that a mole or gopher population will kill a 200' privacy screen, although individual plants may suffer some damage. I'd go ahead and plant without protection, knowing that as the plants develop strong root systems they'll be able to tolerate some mole or gopher activity. Best wishes with your landscape!
Q&A Library Searching Tips