The Pocket Gopher

Written by Matt Oliver

The Pocket Gopher Article by Matt Oliver Copyright 2003 by ProGardenBiz ProGardenBiz, an online magazine

Pocket gophers (Tomomys spp.), so named for their fur lined cheek pouches located outsiderepparttar mouth on each side ofrepparttar 110130 face, are burrowing rodents. They are a serious and difficult to control pest for bothrepparttar 110131 Agricultural and Landscape Industries, as well asrepparttar 110132 homeowner. They destroy vegetation, damage machinery (such as mowers), damage irrigation systems and underground wiring, and lowerrepparttar 110133 aesthetic value ofrepparttar 110134 landscape. In addition, their burrowing activity on slopes causes erosion and can be a major factor in slope weakening and instability that may ultimately lead to a slope failure. Pocket gophers were identified as a major contributing factor to slope failure in a number of recent litigation cases in California.


A thorough understanding of gopher biology and habits is helpful, if not necessary, to a successful control program. They are medium sized rodents withrepparttar 110135 head and body ranging in size from 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) long. They have a powerfully built upper body, short neck and legs, long clawed forefeet, and two pairs of large incisors protruding beyondrepparttar 110136 mouth. These fossorial features are tremendous adaptations for their underground existence. They have a keen sense of touch, thanks to their tail (short and sparsely haired) and vibrissae (whiskers), which serve as sensory organs helping to guiderepparttar 110137 gopher throughout its burrow system. Fur color is highly variable, ranging from dark brown to very light tan.

- Pocket gophers do not hibernate and are thought to be active year round even with snow onrepparttar 110138 ground, but do noticeably decrease surface feeding and mounding in very hot weather. Females produce 1-3 litters per year with an average size surviving brood of 5-6. In unirrigated natural areas breeding season is afterrepparttar 110139 rains begin -- which may mean only one litter per year. In irrigated, landscaped areasrepparttar 110140 continual source of green foliage allowsrepparttar 110141 female to raise 3 litters per year.

They are territorial, anti-social, and live solitary except during breeding periods and whenrepparttar 110142 young are being raised. Gophers live almost exclusively underground, venturing above only to push excavated dirt fromrepparttar 110143 burrow system, graze on vegetation near burrow openings, or forrepparttar 110144 purpose of migrating into new territory. Migration occurs both by adults -- usually as a result of unfavorable environmental conditions and/or habitat destruction (e.g. construction projects), and young whichrepparttar 110145 mother expels from her burrow system when they are about half grown.

Burrow systems consist of a main tunnel, lateral runs, pop holes, and various other functional tunnels and enlargements which are used for nesting, storage (food caches), resting, eating, etc. The main burrow is usually 2-4 inches in diameter (averaging 2 1/2") and is 2-18 inches below and parallel to repparttar 110146 ground surface. Burrows of young may be small, covering only one or two hundred square feet while those of older pocket gophers may cover an area as large as three thousand square feet. Lateral runs branch offrepparttar 110147 main run and are used primarily to push excavated soil torepparttar 110148 surface. The mounds from these laterals are crescent shaped becauserepparttar 110149 soil is pushed withrepparttar 110150 forefeet out ofrepparttar 110151 angled lateral torepparttar 110152 front and sides ofrepparttar 110153 opening. Pop holes usually lead straight from repparttar 110154 surface torepparttar 110155 main run and are used as an access for feeding on nearby vegetation. All runs leading torepparttar 110156 surface end in a soil mound or plug which keepsrepparttar 110157 system completely enclosed -- allowing no light to enter, and stabilizing burrow temperature and humidity as much as possible. If a gopher dies, irrigation or rain washesrepparttar 110158 loose soil plugs from lateral runs and pop holes leaving open tunnels. Drainage tunnels are used for water run-off, thus making it difficult to drown a gopher in a well established system.

The rate of mound building varies withrepparttar 110159 season, tempurature, and soil condition, but averages 1-3 mounds per day, during active periods. The depth of active burrows is usually deeper under hot conditions, especially in non-irrigated or infrequently irrigated areas. Mounding often sharply decreases inrepparttar 110160 heat of Summer followed by intensive mounding inrepparttar 110161 Fall. This renewed Fall activity has often been blamed on reinvasion of areas thought to have been controlled inrepparttar 110162 early Summer.


Although many different techniques have been used in gopher controlrepparttar 110163 most successful programs usually utilize one or more ofrepparttar 110164 following methods: trapping, fumigation, and poison baits.

Trapping is an effective method in small areas such as a homeowner situation, or as a follow up to fumigation or baiting, but is time consuming and thus not very cost effective in a large scale program. The most commonly used traps arerepparttar 110165 Macabee trap andrepparttar 110166 box trap. Traps should always be placed in repparttar 110167 main burrow.

To locaterepparttar 110168 main burrow, look forrepparttar 110169 freshest mounds since they indicate an area of recent gopher activity. You will usually see a small circle or depression representingrepparttar 110170 plugged lateral tunnel. This plug is generally surrounded on one side by soil, makingrepparttar 110171 mound form a crescent shape. The main tunnel is usually found 3-1/2 inches fromrepparttar 110172 plug side of repparttar 110173 mound, and is most often between two mounds. Locatingrepparttar 110174 main burrow usually requires practice, but your skill will improve with experience.

Seeing things differently - an invitation

Written by Andy Smith MCLC

I was walking back home with my dog (he still eatsrepparttar newspapers byrepparttar 110129 way) this weekend and re-emerging fromrepparttar 110130 woods onrepparttar 110131 hill that over looksrepparttar 110132 valley I live in, I stopped, and tookrepparttar 110133 time to stand and stare.

Below me wasrepparttar 110134 village, nestled deep in a cleft. The surrounding hills were lavishly adorned with sprawling woodlands, skirting and dividingrepparttar 110135 many farm fields in whichrepparttar 110136 wheat was beginning to ripen,repparttar 110137 hedgerows subdividing these further. The sky was a cloudless blue and a cooling breeze pleasantly temperedrepparttar 110138 sun's heat.

It was a view I'd seen many times and I thought back torepparttar 110139 very first time I'd gazed upon it; to how beautiful it had looked and how breathtaking. Only by now I had grown accustomed torepparttar 110140 scene, seldom stopping to look at it. So I stood, and stared. And tried to see it inrepparttar 110141 same way that I had seen it before, that first time.

My eyes watered withrepparttar 110142 effort, but to no avail. So I stood and thought about how I might re-awaken my former appreciation of this vista and then set off inrepparttar 110143 opposite direction to my normal route home down intorepparttar 110144 village, walking alongrepparttar 110145 top of a fallow field and down along a seldom trodden path by an overgrown hedge row.

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