There are 35 species of gophers, in 5 different genera, in North America, extending from Canada throughout Central America. They are native animals in North America.
Gophers lead a subterranean life (called fossorial) in meandering burrows they dig with their teeth and front legs. They are active above ground only when young are leaving their mother’s burrow system or when males seek females for mating. Except for these two times gophers are aggressively solitary animals. They are vegetarians, feeding primarily on plant roots and tubers. Gophers do not hibernate, and will be active year-round, although activity in hot weather is minimal and is high in spring and fall. In most natural areas there is a single litter per year, with 5 to 6 young per litter.
The name “pocket” gopher is given due to the two fur-lined pouches on the cheeks outside of the mouth, in which they carry food materials. Adult gophers are about the size of small rats, but have dark brown fur, very short tails, and very large, broad front feet with enlarged claws. They have large heads and powerful necks, along with the fur-lined pouches on the outside of the cheeks. The short tail is fairly bare and is used for sensing the frequent backward movement of the animal in its burrow system. Gopher activity is identified by the mounds of soil pushed to the surface from below. It typically has a low, horseshoe-shape with a “plug” of fresher looking soil in the arc. The gopher pushes dirt out of the burrow onto the expanding horseshoe, plugging the hole with fresh soil each time it goes back underground.
Characteristics Important in Control:
Control may be by baiting, trapping, or fumigation. These are suspicious animals, and care must be taken to keep light from entering the burrow. It is most successful in spring or fall when gopher activity is at its highest. Fumigation may be preferred for large populations of the rodents to reduce the time factor needed for trapping programs.