Pocket gopher

A pocket gopher pops its small flat head from a burrow. Its long

Many of us take pride in our lawns and gardens. We see the pristine smooth grass on a leveled yard, and we smile. Then one day, we see small mounds of dirt erupting at the surface. What is causing this upheaval of soil you might ask?

Answer: Gophers!

They are fossorial creatures, meaning, this animal prefers living underground in burrows and traveling in tunnels. They are a diurnal creature or that they come out during the day.

Pocket gophers are small herbivores that are a gardener’s worst nightmare along with homeowners that enjoy their manicured lawns. The gopher can range from five to 14 inches in length. The rodent has a small neck, round body with soft fur and a flat head. It has pockets lined with fur each side of its mouth, hence the name pocket gopher.

The gopher is a digging marvel. It is well equipped with its large visible incisors and strong forequarters with long claws that can shred through feet of dirt. It’s long whiskers; short tail and bulging dark eyes are quite evident if you see one on the surface. The sensitive whiskers and tail allow the gopher to navigate through its tunnels and your yard. Although you might see a mound or two of dirt in your yard, gophers can dig extensive underground networks burrows. These networks consist of chambers to store and eat food, deposit their excrement or to live. Other parts of their subterranean system have tunnels for drainage and hallways, or travel runs, that course through the network. A unique aspect of the gopher is that they crawl in reverse. If you have ever unearthed a tunnel you will see that it is very narrow. The gopher’s tail allows it to find it’s way backwards.

What makes this cute little mammal a pest is that they follow a healthy diet of plant material. Their diet includes grasses, trees, herbaceous plants, shrubs and roots. Gophers prefer an area that has good drainage with porous and moist soil. While in the garden or your yard you may have seen plants convulsing in the ground when nothing else is moving. It is probably a pocket gopher enjoying your hard work of planting decorative plants or food. Their fur-lined pockets in their mouths are used to hold a large amount of food. They carry this food to their food chamber to eat it at another time. Gophers prefer to remain underground when foraging.

Residents and exterminators have employed many ways to try and rid your yard and garden of these destructive rodents. Yet somehow, they eventually return to dine on the buffet set before them at your home.

Owls, hawks, eagles, falcons, great egrets, great blue herons along with coyotes, foxes, house cats and snakes are the natural exterminators that keep the gopher population under control.


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