Let’s start off with explaining why pocket gophers make mounds in your yard. Well, gophers live underground and feed mainly on the roots of plants. In order for them to survive, they have to go where the roots are. There is no easy way to get to them other than digging a tunnel. When digging a new tunnel, a lot of dirt accumulates in there and eventually gets in the way. So when this happens the gopher starts to dig towards the surface at approximately a 45 to 80 degree angle until it reaches the surface. It goes back into its hole and gets behind the loose dirt, puts both front feet out in front and pushes the dirt out. If you look at a picture of a mound, notice how the dirt is only on one side of the hole. This is because of the angle the tunnel is going to the surface. It is able to push the dirt straight out and to the sides, but not behind him.
Gophers are very efficient diggers. Their front legs are very powerful, and when combined with their long pick-like claws they create the perfect tunnel digging tool. When there is something in their way that they can’t dig out with their arms they use their large teeth, called incisors, to get the job done. A pocket gopher’s incisors never stop growing, and must be maintained by using them frequently. Also, the incisors are on the outside of the gopher’s mouth. So even when it is using its incisors to dig, it can keep its mouth closed. The incisors are what they use when they gnaw on a pipe, utility cable or other large object.
A gopher’s tunnel system can be very extensive. It consists of a main tunnel, which is usually 6 to 8 inches below ground, and numerous lateral tunnels leading to the surface. The main tunnel can be as long as 200 yards, consisting of numerous branches and side tunnels. Also, gophers make special chambers to stash their food and others to raise their young. These chambers can be as deep as 6 feet!
With their tunnels being so large it would be easy to assume that a lot of gophers could live in one. This is true, but gophers are actually very territorial and usually live alone in a tunnel system. The only time more than one gopher will occupy a tunnel is during breeding season or when a female gopher has a litter. In non-irrigated areas their breeding season is in late winter and early spring resulting in one litter of 3-10 young. In irrigated areas they can have up to three litters a year. After about two months, juveniles leave the tunnel to start one of their own. They reach sexual maturity in one year and have a life span of approximately three years.
Pocket gophers get their name because they have pouches on their face where they can carry food. The interesting thing about them is that the pouches are located on the outside of a gopher’s mouth and not inside like a hamster. Gophers range in size anywhere from 6-9 inches in length. Their fur is usually brown, matching the color of their surrounding area. They have an excellent sense of smell, but have poor eyesight. This makes sense since they spend most of their life in the dark. They can run backwards nearly as fast as they can run forwards. They use their short tail covered with sensitive hairs to help guide them when they do.
As fascinating as gophers are, they just cause too much damage in landscaped areas to be ignored. After reading the above, hopefully you understand these creatures a little better and know what you are up against. So if you are having problems with gophers let us help you save your yard. Go-Pher The Kill specializes in gopher control.
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