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Pocket Gopher Description

Pocket Gopher In Tunnel

Pocket Gopher With Mound

Pocket gophers are burrowing rodents, so named because they have fur-lined cheek pouches outside of the mouth, one on each side of the face. These pockets, which can be turned inside out, are used to carry food. Pocket gophers are powerfully built in the forequarters and have a short neck; the head is fairly small and flattened. The forepaws are large-clawed. Gophers have small external ears, small eyes, and lips that close behind their large incisors, all adaptations to their underground existence. The pocket gopher's tail is sparsely haired and serves as a sensory mechanism that guides the gopher while moving backward through its tunnel system. The whiskers on its face are also sensitive, and help the pocket gopher while traveling about in its darkened tunnel.

Pocket gophers are medium-size rodents ranging from about 5 to nearly 14 inches long (head and body). Adult males are larger than adult females. Their fur is fine and soft, and highly variable in color. Colors range from nearly black to pale brown to almost white.      The great variability in size and color of pocket gophers is attributed to their low dispersal rate and, thus, limited gene flow, resulting in adaptation to local conditions. Several other small mammals are sometimes confused with pocket gophers. Pocket gophers can be distinguished from other mammals by their telltale signs, as well as by appearance.

Pocket gophers leave soil mounds on the surface of the ground.    The mounds are usually fan-shaped, and tunnel entrances are plugged, keeping intruders out of burrows. 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 roots, grasses, shrubs, and even small trees. They are strict herbivores, and any animal material in their diet appears to be accidental. Alfalfa apparently is one of the most nutritious foods for pocket gophers.

Recommended Control

At Mallory Landscape and Design, we have the best results by trapping these rodents. Trapping can be done year-round because gophers are always active, but a formidable effort is required for trapping when the soil is frozen. Trapping is most effective when gophers are pushing up new mounds, usually in spring and fall.    After locating the main runway, a small hole is dug and all dirt is removed from the tunnel. A trap is then placed in each direction and attached to a stake at the surface with a cord or wire.                    The gopher then senses the tunnel is open and will be caught by trying to block the opening with a small amount of soil. The traps are checked daily for any activity. If a trap is not sprung within 48 hours, it is moved to a new location. The benefit of using traps to control pocket gophers is that there is concrete evidence that the rodent, once caught, has been eliminated.

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