A Glimpse Into Gophers

Pocket gophers are the most common type of gopher. These rodents can be anywhere from 5 to 14 inches long. Pocket gophers have fur-lined pouches outside of the mouth, one on each side of the face. These pockets, which are capable of being turned inside out, are used for carrying food. Their fur ranges black to light brown and white.

Gophers are solitary animals except when breeding or rearing young. Gophers are active year round, but are the most visibly active in the spring and fall when the soil is of the ideal moisture content for digging. They are extremely well adapted and built for an underground existence. Gopher underground burrows can be very deep, up to several feet, and several hundred feet in length. As gophers dig burrows, pushing the soil to the surface, they leave a mound, usually in a fan shaped. As stated earlier, moles leave a conical shape mound and voles leave no mound at all.

Pocket gophers feed on plants in three ways. They may go to the surface, venturing only a body length or so from their tunnel opening to feed on above-ground vegetation. They may feed on roots they encounter when digging. They frequently pull vegetation into their tunnel from below. Pocket gophers eat forbs, grasses, shrubs, even small trees. They are strict herbivores and any animal material in their diet appears to be accidental.

The pocket gopher digs with its claws and teeth and kicks soil, rocks and other items away from the digging area with its hind feet. Then the gopher turns over and uses its forefeet and chest to push the soil out of its burrow. Burrow systems consist of a main burrow, generally 4 to 18 inches below ground and parallel to the surface, with a variable number of lateral burrows off the main. A single burrow system can contain up to 200 yards of tunnels. Litter sizes range from 1 to 10, but average 3 to 4.

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