Gophers are small, subterranean rodents that burrow under the ground. They are called pocket gophers because of the pocket of skin that is in either of their cheeks used to carry food. How many pocket gophers live together? Most pocket gophers prefer to live alone except when they have young. But populations can also be as dense as 60 per acre, when food is plentiful.
These medium sized rodents love plants and vegetables. Roots, tubers, bulbs and sometimes the entire above ground plant can make a great dinner for this fossorial rodent. The pockets in their cheeks go all the way back to their shoulders. These are great for storing food and bringing it back to it’s main burrow. They are specially adapted for digging underground. Long claws, powerful front legs, small eyes and ears, and sensitive whiskers and tail make this animal perfect for underground digging.
Except when mating or rearing their young, gophers are very solitary creatures. If another gopher comes close to his burrow, the fight will be on. Part of the reason they are so protective, is because they are prolific hoarders. They have entire rooms in their burrow used to store food. They also have rooms for nesting and waste and tunnels for drainage. Pocket gophers do not have an exterior hole on their burrow. These animals are active all year round.
Gophers live to be around three years old. In the spring of the first year, they will mate and have a litter of up to 5 pups. In good conditions, they will have three litters a year. It takes about a month of gestation to birth her young. These little ones will only stay with their mother for a few weeks before striking out on their own.
Moles and other fossorial rodents use their front paws to dig, but not the gopher. This rodent has four large front teeth that continue to grow. It uses these front teeth to dig under the ground. The gopher has the unique ability to close its lips behind its front teeth, keeping dirt out of its mouth. As it digs, it displaces dirt. Pocket gophers remove this dirt by creating a horseshoe shaped mound on the surface. It opens up the ground and pushes out the dirt at a “room” in the burrow. Then it plugs the hole.
Pocket Gophers have many predators. Owls and hawks will attack from the sky, when a gopher is exposed pushing dirt out of the mound, Snakes will also use tunnels to hunt gophers. These rodents are smart and will plug off sections of the burrow if they are threatened . They also smell gases and will do the same to protect themselves and their young.