Facts, Identification & Control
Pocket gophers are medium-sized rodents from the family Geomyidae. There are varied species of pocket gophers. They range from about 15 to 35 cm in length. Their fur varies in color from black to brown to nearly white and is very soft. The pocket gopher got its name from the fur-lined pouches outside its mouth. These pouches are typically used for food transport.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Pocket gophers are skilled burrowers and well-designed for their subterranean lifestyle. They have a short neck and powerful forequarters with large claws on the front paws. Their heads are small and flattened with small ears and eyes and lips which close behind the large incisors.
Pocket gophers are able to burrow in lawns and gardens. The tunnels can range from a few inches to a few feet in depth and several hundred feet in length. A unique aspect of the pocket gopher’s burrow is the horseshoe-shaped mound at the surface (moles construct volcano-shaped mounds at the surface of their tunnels). Pocket gophers are most active during the spring and fall when soil is primed for digging. These are solitary creatures that tend to be social only during mating season and child rearing.
What do Gophers Eat
Gophers feed on a variety of plants such as weeds, grasses, agricultural crops and garden plants. Their diet includes plant roots, bulbs, tubers such as potatoes and peanuts, and underground plant stems. Gophers eat the roots they find while excavating their tunnels; on vegetation during their infrequent foraging above ground, and they sometimes drag surface vegetation into their tunnel. Pocket gophers get their common name from their cheek “pockets” that are used to carry their food.
Pocket Gopher Predators
Since pocket gophers spend most of their time inside their underground burrow, the most effective predators are those that are strong diggers. The pocket gopher’s most common predators are badgers, coyotes, wolves, foxes, skunks, bobcats, weasels and some snakes. Predatory birds, like hawks and owls, prey on pocket gophers when they leave their tunnels.
What animals can be confused with gophers?
Generally, almost any small, burrowing mammal can be confused with a gopher. Among those animals are moles, groundhogs, ground squirrels, voles and prairie dogs.
Biology does vary slightly, based on the species of pocket gopher. As an example, some have only a single litter of offspring each year, while others can have three to four. The average size of a litter is three to four. Young pocket gophers typically leave the family unit in late summer to early fall and establish their own territories.
What do baby gophers look like?
Pocket gopher females go through a gestation period of about one month and normally give birth to one to six babies. Newborns are hairless, pink, wrinkled, without fur, have closed eyes and ears, are one to two inches long and weigh about five grams. About five weeks after birth, the cheek pouches develop, the eyes open and they are weaned. At two to three months after birth, the half-grown baby gophers leave their burrow and begin to forage for their own food and burrowing sites. Young gophers look like smaller versions of adults.
Signs of a Pocket Gopher Infestation
The burrowing activity of pocket gophers is the most noticeable sign.
Control of these furry little pests can be challenging. It’s recommended you contact a pest control professional for a full evaluation prior to any involved control efforts.