Learn about Utah Gophers
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Pocket gophers are medium-sized burrowing rodents. They vary in length from 7 to 13 inches. The color of their fur ranges from light brown to what appears to be black. The gophers in Utah are pocket gophers because they have external cheek pouches that look like pockets. These pouches allow them to bring food back to their burrows to eat it there.
Pocket gophers, sometimes called “pot-guts” in Utah, have poor eyesight, which is compensated by other well-developed senses. Gophers are well equipped for a digging, tunneling lifestyle with powerfully built forequarters, large-clawed front paws, fine short fur that doesn’t cake in wet soils, small eyes and small external ears, and highly sensitive facial whiskers to assist movements in the dark.
Pocket gophers prefer moist soil and avoid dry, barren areas. A gophers burrow system can cover an area of 200 to over 2,000 square feet. Gopher burrows are about 3 to 4 inches in diameter; feeding burrows are generally about 6 to 12 inches below ground. The gophers’ nesting site and food storage chamber can be as deep as 6 feet. Short, sloping lateral tunnels connect the main runway burrows to the surface. Gophers seal the openings of their burrow holes with earthen plugs.
Mounds of fresh soil are the best sign of gopher presence. Mounds are formed as the gopher digs its tunnel and pushes the loose dirt to the surface. The gopher hole is usually plugged off to one side of the mound. Typically mounds are crescent or horseshoe-shaped.
Gophers are herbivorous. Their diet consists mainly of plants, such as roots, tubers, grasses, and leaves. Occasionally, they also eat insects and small invertebrates. Gophers have large cheek pouches that can store food when collecting vegetation to return to their burrows. They do not hibernate during winter but store food in underground chambers.
Gopher Life Cycle & Reproduction
Pocket gophers have a short life span, usually about two to three years. Gophers reach sexual maturity at about one year of age. Females produce one to three liters each year. Gophers usually live alone within their burrow system, except for females with young or when breeding.
Litters usually average five to six young. Gophers do not hibernate and are active year-round, although fresh mounding may not be seen. They also can be active at all hours of the day.
Pocket gophers often invade yards and gardens and feed on many garden crops, ornamental plants, vines, shrubs, and trees. A single gopher can inflict considerable damage in very little time. Gophers also gnaw and damage plastic water lines and lawn sprinkler systems. Their tunnels can divert and carry off irrigation water, leading to soil erosion. Mounds on lawns interfere with mowing equipment and ruin the aesthetics of well-kept turf grass. Click here to learn about Gopher removal.