The Pocket Gopher

Pocket gophers (Tomomys spp.), so named for their fur lined
cheek pouches located outside the mouth on each side of the
face, are burrowing rodents. They are a serious and difficult
to control pest for both the Agricultural and Landscape
Industries, as well as the homeowner. They destroy vegetation,
damage machinery (such as mowers), damage irrigation systems
and underground wiring, and lower the aesthetic value of the
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.

Biology

A thorough understanding of gopher biology and habits is
helpful, if not necessary, to a successful control program.
They are medium sized rodents with the 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 incisorspellet fapellet brikett fabrikett protruding beyond the 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 guide the
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 on the 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 after the rains begin — which may mean only one
litter per year. In irrigated, landscaped areas the continual
source of green foliage allows the female to raise 3 litters
per year.