When several mounds of dirt suddenly appear in your yard or garden, the first thought is probably gophers.
Hailing from the Geomidae family, all 41 species of pocket gophers are native to North America.
But it’s easy to get these critters confused with other rodents, such as the larger (but visually similar) groundhog.
Let’s take a moment to look at ways to confirm this is the critter digging up your lawn, beginning with whether or not gophers have tails.
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Do Gophers Have Tails?
For some reason, one of the most common questions we get about pocket gophers is whether they have tails.
Just like groundhogs, gophers do have short, hairy tail measuring one to two inches long.
In fact, these small rodents are closely related to ground squirrels
Because these rodents have poor eyesight, the tail serves as an extra sensory mechanism.
It’s mainly used to navigate backwards though their vast network of underground tunnels.
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What Does a Gopher Look Like?
So now that we’ve confirmed a gopher tail, what are some other identifying features of these little rodents?
These are fairly small critters, measuring only six to eight inches, excluding the tail.
Their fur tends to be a color similar to the soil of their habitat.
An adult gopher weighs about half a pound and has loose skin to allow for more movement.
But perhaps their most curious feature are their cheek pouches.
Unlike ground squirrels, these comparably sized rodents have a pouch in each cheek that’s fur-lined and easily inverted.
When they find a particularly good haul, the pouches can become comically big, creating huge bulges going back to their shoulders!
This crazy feature is how the many species of pocket gophers get their name.
How Burrow Life Affects Gopher Appearance
Pocket gophers look like they do because they spend most of their time underground.
Those gopher holes on your lawn are only the tip of the iceberg.
In fact, a single gopher can excavate up to 800 feet of tunnels beneath one acre of land.
They prefer moist soil, and will often use a soil plug to prevent other critters from getting into their burrow entrances.
A short lateral tunnel connects each entrance to the main burrow system.
Inside, the tunnel system has many side chambers for food, latrines, and nest chambers.
A burrow will generally contain both a male and female gopher, along with their pups.
Bonus: What Do Gophers Eat?
Now that we’ve talked about their appearance and how it affects life in a pocket gopher burrow, what about their diet?
As mentioned, these critters have huge pouches to take advantage of any nearby food source.
Some favorite treats include:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Ornamental Plants
- Plant Roots
- Sweet Potatoes
In their search for food, these rodents are known to accidentally chew into irrigation lines.
They can also cause soil erosion as they consume the roots of plants.
But their feeding can also have positive effects when not under your property.
For example, abandoned burrows can become natural irrigation systems.
Also, a gopher mound will push grass and other small plants underground where they’ll decompose and improve soil quality.
But just be warned, when these excavations happen on your property, it can lead to considerable damage.
This not only includes garden vegetables, but can also cause extensive damage to your foundations.
Remember, spotting mounds of soil on your property could be a sign of a gopher infestation, so be sure to take all gopher activity seriously.
When in doubt, call one of your local pest control companies to verify the source of those mounds.
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