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Gophers are small burrowing mammals that belong to the Geomyidae family. They are known for their extensive tunnel systems, which they use for shelter and foraging. While gophers are generally small in size, there is variation among different species. In this article, we will explore the different factors that determine the size of a gopher and provide fascinating insights into these curious creatures.

Gopher Overview

Gopher Facts

Gophers, also known as pocket gophers, are known for their subterranean lifestyle. They are rodents that range in size from 5 to 14 inches in length, with a tail adding an additional 2 to 6 inches. Gophers have distinctive front claws that are suited for digging intricate tunnel systems. Pocket gophers are most commonly found in North America, particularly in prairies, grasslands, and agricultural areas.


Gophers have stocky bodies with small eyes and ears. Their fur can vary in color, ranging from brown, gray, and black. They have sharp incisors that grow continuously throughout their lives, allowing them to gnaw on roots and vegetation. Gophers are well adapted to their underground lifestyle, with their lips closing behind their teeth to prevent soil from entering their mouths while digging.


There are several species of gophers, including the mountain pocket gopher (Thomomys monticola) and the Great Basin pocket gopher (Thomomys lanius). Each species has unique characteristics and can differ in size and habitat preferences.

Gopher Habitat

Habitat Overview

Gophers have a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, forests, and deserts. They thrive in areas with loose, sandy soil that allows for easy digging. Gophers create a network of tunnels with chambers for sleeping, nesting, and storing food.

Gopher Geography

Different species of gophers are found in specific regions of North America. For example, the Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama) is native to the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Oregon and Washington. Understanding the geographic distribution of gophers is crucial for conservation efforts and identifying areas where their activities may cause public health concerns.

Gopher Behavior

Gophers are primarily solitary creatures, only interacting with others for breeding purposes. They are highly territorial and mark their tunnels with scent glands to deter intruders. Gophers are active year-round and are most active during the early morning and late afternoon. They have well-developed sensory organs, allowing them to navigate underground.

Gopher Reproduction

Gophers have a unique reproductive system that allows for rapid population growth. Females can produce several litters per year, with each litter consisting of 3 to 7 young. The gestation period is around 19 to 22 days, and the young gophers are weaned at about a month old. The offspring leave the burrow when they are capable of digging their own tunnels.

Gopher Diet

Gophers are herbivores and mainly feed on plant roots, tubers, bulbs, and stems. They also consume various types of vegetation, including grass, clover, and alfalfa. Gophers are known for their ability to consume large quantities of food in relation to their body size, enabling them to sustain their underground lifestyle.

Identifying Gopher Damage

Gophers, with their extensive tunneling habits, can cause damage to crops, lawns, and gardens. Signs of gopher activity include mounds of fresh soil, visible tunnel entrances, and damaged vegetation. Identifying gopher damage is important to implement effective control measures and minimize the impact on the landscape.

Controlling Gophers

Pest Control

There are various methods available to control gopher populations, including trapping, chemical deterrents, and natural predators. Traps can be set in active tunnels, while chemical deterrents can be applied to plants to discourage gophers from feeding.

Termite Control

Gophers are often mistaken for termites due to their subterranean activities. However, it is important to differentiate between these different pests in order to implement appropriate control measures. Consulting with pest control professionals can help in accurately identifying and addressing gopher-related issues.

Controlling Gophers with Kaput-D Pocket Gopher Bait

One effective method of controlling gophers is the use of Kaput-D Pocket Gopher Bait. This specially formulated bait is designed to attract gophers and control their population. Always follow the instructions and guidelines provided with the product to ensure safe and effective use.

Gopher Size Comparisons

While gophers are generally small in size, there is variation among species. Mountain pocket gophers (Thomomys monticola) can grow up to 10 inches in length, while the Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama) can reach a length of 14 inches. It is important to note that these measurements include their tail length. Comparing the size of different gopher species provides a better understanding of their diversity.

Facts About Pocket Gophers

– Pocket gophers are excellent diggers, capable of creating complex tunnel systems.
– Their tunneling activities contribute to soil aeration and nutrient cycling.
– Gophers play an important role in ecosystem engineering, shaping the landscape through their burrowing activities.
– Some gopher species are considered keystone species, as their burrows provide shelter for other animals.

Benefits of Gophers

Despite the challenges they pose to human activities, gophers provide several benefits to the ecosystem. Their tunneling activities help with soil structure and nutrient distribution. Gophers also serve as a food source for predators such as owls, snakes, and foxes. Recognizing the ecological importance of gophers can aid in promoting conservation efforts and finding a balance between their presence and human needs.

Conservation Efforts for Mazama Pocket Gopher

The Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama) is a species of concern due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Conservation efforts are underway to protect and restore their habitats, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Collaborative initiatives involving researchers, landowners, and government agencies aim to promote the long-term survival of this unique gopher species.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Are gophers dangerous to humans?

A: Gophers are not typically dangerous to humans. However, their burrowing activities can cause damage to infrastructure and landscaping. It is important to address gopher-related issues to prevent potential hazards.

Q: Can gophers carry diseases?

A: Gophers are not known to carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. However, their burrowing may disturb soil, potentially exposing other disease-carrying organisms.

Q: How can I protect my garden from gophers?

A: There are various methods to protect your garden from gophers. These include installing physical barriers, using repellents, and regularly monitoring for signs of gopher activity.

Q: Do gophers hibernate?

A: Gophers do not hibernate and are active throughout the year. They store food in their burrows to sustain themselves during periods of limited food availability.

Q: Can I relocate gophers to a different area?

A: Relocating gophers can be challenging and is often ineffective. It is essential to consult local regulations and consider alternative control methods to address gopher issues.


Gophers are fascinating creatures that have adapted to a burrowing lifestyle. While they vary in size depending on the species, their impact on ecosystems and human activities is significant. Understanding their behavior, habitat, and role in the environment can help in implementing effective control measures while promoting their conservation.

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