Gophers are small, furry rodents with an average life of one to three years. They live predominantly in the United States, mostly in the Midwest and West. However, a few species can be found in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. There are several facts that you might not know about these interesting creatures.
This animal got its full name, pocket gopher, from the fur-lined pouches or pockets on the outside of its cheeks. The pockets stretch all the way to its shoulders, and it uses them to transport food from foraging areas to its underground home. The gopher also cleans these pockets by turning them inside out.
Body and Size
Although small, pocket gophers are moderately large in the rodent kingdom. They range from 5 to 14 inches long and weigh from one-half to two pounds. Their bodies are flat, which makes it easy for them to dig and travel through tunnels. Their short yet powerful legs, the claws on their broad feet and 4-inch tails help with tunnel travel too.
Gophers also have massive but flat and angular skulls. Their small eyes and ears don't provide much for sight and hearing. Instead, they rely on highly developed touch sensory in their whiskers and tails to feel surroundings and survive. Gophers also use their four large incisors for digging, and those teeth don't stop growing. They can close their lips behind their teeth to prevent dirt from getting into their mouths as they dig.
Eating and Digging Habits
Since pocket gophers are herbivores, they eat plant flesh, roots, and tubers. They can consume about 60 percent of their body weight every day. For this reason, they cause a lot of damage to gardens and yards in California. This is why they can be considered pests.
Gophers forage, eat and sleep mostly underground. Sometimes, they poke their heads out of their tunnels to grab nearby plants. It's uncommon for them to spend time outside of their dens. When they do, they don't go far from the tunnel entrance.
Pocket gopher burrow systems are typically extensive with drainage tunnels and travel runs that expand from 200 to 2,000 square feet. The rodents are capable of digging 150 feet of tunnels in just one day. The food and nest chamber can be up to 6 feet deep. They use their tails for navigation as they move backward through the tunnels.
A Solitary Life
Gophers are active all year long and at any time of day. Despite having an extensive tunnel network, they aren't social animals among their own kind except during mating and weaning periods. They're very territorial and fight to protect their food and homes from intruders.
A female gopher becomes capable of breeding at about 1 year old and can have one to three litters per year. Gestation only lasts about one month, and each litter has two to six pups. After just a few weeks, the mother sends her pups out of the burrow so that they can dig their own homes.
With the ability to have up to 18 pups a year, pocket gophers can quickly become neighborhood pests. Valley Pest Solutions can help solve your gopher and other pest problems. Call for a free pest quote.