17 Facts About Gophers | Different Types of Gophers and More

Gophers are a type of rodent that digs through the soil and creates huge tunnels underground. They can vary between 12cm to 35cm in length and they can weigh between 200 grams to 900 grams!

These rodents can cause massive damage to gardens and farmlands as they not only create huge piles of mud and dust above the surface, they also eat the roots of many plants.

Pocket gophers are characterized by their huge front teeth, which they use to dig through the soil and to chew the roots of plants.

In this article, we will look at some of the interesting facts about Pocket gophers that one may need to know in order to eliminate them from the garden. 

Physical Characteristics of Gophers

There are 10 to 13 species currently, living in the U.S. While they live in different regions but they still share some common features:

  • Their height is between 5 to 14 inches and they weigh around 6 ounces to 2 ounces.
  • Their fur varies from black to light brown and to white.
  • They all have small eyes and ears, making them depend solely on their sensibility of touch.
  • A lot of times they are confused with the squirrels, groundhogs and moles.
  • Their front body is strong, their neck is short and their head is small. They also have long claws on their feet.

17 Facts about Gophers

1. What do gophers like to eat?

Gophers are omnivores, which means they feed on both plant and animal life. They eat earthworms, small insects, and bugs. But they primarily eat a large variety of plants which can include roots, bulbs, succulents, seeds, flowering plants, etc.,

They prefer plants such as peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, lily, dandelions, alfalfa, etc, among other things. They are not picky animals, which means they will eat any plant they find. They are repulsed by only a few types of plants.  

2. How deep do gophers dig?

Gophers can dig anywhere between 1 foot to 6 foot deep. Gophers dig huge tunnel systems underneath the ground, which can span up to 2000 square feet in width.

These tunnel systems comprise different chambers that are meant for different purposes. They store their food for winter up to 6 feet below the ground. Their breeding chambers are also about 6 feet below the ground.

These tunnels go downwards at an angle, as gophers do not like digging vertically downwards. This is why the deepest chambers are often very far away from the entrance to the gopher tunnel. 

3. How long do gophers live?

Gophers generally live 2 to 3 years, however, some gophers can live up to 5 years. A few species of gophers can also live up to 7 years in the wild.

However, these animals usually don’t live for 5 or 7 years because they become prey to other wildlife.

If a gopher manages to survive from predators in the wild, it can usually live for 5 years. As they approach maturity gophers may die of diseases or due to the inability to move fast enough from predators. 

4. How to tell if you have moles or gophers?

The easiest way to see the difference between moles and gophers is to look at the type of hole they make in the ground. Gophers dig the soil at an angle, which is why their holes have a crescent-shaped mound on one side and the hole is filled with sunken soil.

On the other hand, Moles dig vertically into the soil and push the dirt out in all directions. So moles create a circular mound of dirt around their hole. You can also differentiate between moles and gophers simply by looking at them if you get a chance.

Moles have pronounced stout and very big claws, whereas Gophers have big teeth but no claws. Moles also have furry coats and they are generally smaller than gophers. 

5. What plants do gophers hate?

Gophers are repelled by plants that have a strong scent.

Such plants include Euphorbia lathyris (also known as gopher spurge), Lavender, Rosemary, Salvia, Catnip, Marigold, Garlic, Daffodils, Paperwhites, Festuca California, Jersey lily, Hyacinth, Scilla, Monkeyflowers, Westringia, etc. 

6. When are gophers most active?

Gophers are active all year round and they do not hibernate, so you will see them throughout the year.

However, during the span of a day, gophers are most active during the dawn. That is when they dig through the ground in search of food. However, they can keep digging during the nighttime as well. 

7. How do gophers breathe underground?

Gophers and other borrowing animals breathe oxygen just like humans. While they dig, the air gets trapped in these chambers, and they breathe in that air. It is true, however,  that the oxygen levels underground are lower than above ground.

Gophers and other burrowing animals have a “high-affinity hemoglobin”, which means they can breathe in air that has low oxygen levels. However, if the tunnel collapses or becomes clogged, then they will be deprived of oxygen and will die. 

8. Why do gophers make mounds?

Gophers dig through the ground to create tunnels, where they live, store food, and reproduce. To create a tunnel they have to displace a lot of dirt from underground. This is why they bring out some amount of dirt from underground, which creates a mound.

These mounds are created at the entrances of the tunnel, through which they go in and out of their tunnel.

9. How high can gophers climb?

Gophers do not climb very high. They will only climb one foot or so above the ground. They typically do not try to climb any trees or big plants. 

10. How many gophers live in a burrow?

Gophers prefer living alone in their burrow, except while females live in the same burrow for childbirth. The younglings are weaned by the mother for 4 to 5 weeks, and then they are kicked out of the tunnel. Gophers are solitary creatures and they have territories that they do not like to share with others of their own kind. 

11. What months are gophers most active?

Gophers are most active during spring and fall, because during those seasons, there is more moisture in the soil, making it easier for them to dig through.

So they are active from September to October, and again from April to May. However that being said, gophers are still active throughout the year. 

12. When do gophers dig holes?

As soon as a young gopher gets out of the tunnel they are born in, they would start digging.

This means as soon as they are 4 to 5 weeks old, they will start digging their own tunnels to live in and to collect food in. In general, gophers dig more tunnels during spring or in fall, when the soil is moist and easy to dig. 

13. How good is a gophers memory?

Gophers can remember smells and use their sense of smell to navigate underground. They can also smell humans and recognize it as a danger.

In that sense, they can remember smells very well. We can say they have very good olfactory memory. 

14. What are the different types of gophers?

There are many types of gophers throughout the world, but the most common typos of gophers found in North America are Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher, Smokey Pocket Gopher, Giant Pocket Gophers, Merriam’s pocket gopher, South-eastern Pocket Gophers, Oriental Basin pocket gopher, Goldman’s pocket gopher, Texas Pocket Gopher, Mountain Pocket Gopher, etc.

They each have some distinguishing feature that sets them apart from each other. The Yellow Faced Pocket Gopher has a yellowish-brown fur and a short tail along with a smaller skull structure.

They are usually found in the shortgrass prairie in the south-western United States. Smokey Pocket Gophers have greyish fur and they are most commonly found in tropical dry grassland.

They can be found in Mexico. Giant Pocket Gophers are quite large in size, they can range between 20 to 30cm in length and can weigh up to 2 pounds.

They are also commonly found in Mexico. The Merriam’s pocket gophers can be found in pine-oak woodlands, and at a higher elevation of 1800 to 4000 m. 

South-eastern Pocket Gophers are found in the south eastern parts of the united states. They are comparatively smaller than other pocket gophers. 

The Oriental Basin Pocket Gopher is usually found in Mexico in the area of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Range. Goldman’s pocket gopher is found in northern Mexico. 

Texas Pocket Gophers can be found in Texas, USA. They have a dull greyish color on their fur. Mountain Pocket Gophers can be found in California and Nevada. They thrive in a cold environment. 

15. How far do gophers go underground in the winter?

Gophers dig deeper during winter to avoid the cold. They can dig up to 6 feet underground to spend the wintertime.

They store food in these deep burrows for winter and spend most of the winter underground. 

16. How do gophers deal with rain?

Gophers like rain as it makes the soil moist, making it easier for them to burrow. When it starts to rain, gophers usually plug their tunnel openings to prevent water from filling up their tunnel.

They also dig sumps, which collect water for their consumption. Unless it is very heavy rain, gophers are unaffected underground. If there is a flood, then the gophers may drown. 

17. How often do gophers reproduce?

A female gopher can reproduce 1 to 3 times per year. The number of litters (giving birth to multiple young ones) varies according to the amount of water the female gets throughout the year.

In irrigated farms, females reproduce 2 or 3 times each year, while in drier lands, they reproduce once a year. Each litter can have 5 or 6 offsprings.

Gophers reach sexual maturity after one year, and start to reproduce after that. It takes about 19 to 20 days for a female to give birth once it becomes pregnant. 

Final Comments:

Gophers are widely considered pests, but they are also very important to the ecosystem. They dig through the ground which loosens up the soil, allowing the soil quality to be better in the wild.

They are also prey to many bigger animals such as birds and snakes, which makes them an integral part of the ecosystem. In general, gophers are interesting animals.