plains pocket gopher

(Geomys bursarius)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

plains pocket gopher

NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Occurrence

Common. Agricultural and lawn pest.

Habitat

Formerly tallgrass and midgrass prairie regions and associated open woodlands

Lifespan

Less than 5 years

Photo by Bill Reynolds
Size

Total length: 9½ to 12

Tail: 2 to 4½

 

Identification

This is a medium-sized rodent well adapted for digging.

The body of an adult is compact and 9½ to 12 in length, including the tail. It appears heaviest toward the head, tapering gradually to the tail. Males are slightly larger than females.

The head is broad and flat with a short shout. The bony ridge forming the lower border of the eye socket is widely flared. The eyes are small. The ears are short and hairless. The cheeks are external, fur-lined pouches or “pockets”, which gives this species its common name. They extend backward to the shoulders and are used for carrying food. The two upper incisors are large, protruding, and orange. There are two longitudinal grooves on the front of each upper incisor. The incisors are used for digging. The lips close behind the upper and lower incisors to keep dirt out of the mouth while digging.

The fur covering most of the body is is brown to black, shiny, and short. The hairs move easily in either direction, permitting forward and backward movement in the tunnel. The fur on the top of the feet is whitish. The fur on the underside is dull and usually paler.

The forelimbs are short and strong and have long, heavy claws. The tail is 2 to 4½ long, brown, and tapered. It has little hair and is used as a sensory organ. The tip of the tail is white.

 
Sign

Mound
The mound is crescent-, bean-, or kidney-shaped. The texture is fine and there are no large clods of dirt. The hole is off-center and is sealed by a visible dirt plug. The dirt plug is at an angle. Separate feed hole are also made. They are identified by the lack of a dirt mound and a circular band of clipped vegetation within one body length of the hole.

 
Similar
Species

Eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) mound is cone-shaped, not kidney shaped. The texture of the dirt in the mound is coarser, with clods of dirt. There is no visible dirt plug. There are usually visible traces of shallow tunnels near the mound.

Northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides) is smaller, 6½ to 10½ in total length. The forelimbs are smaller. The front claws are lighter. The fur is not shiny. There is only one indistinct groove near the inner border of each upper incisor. In Minnesota it has been found only in Kittson and Marshall Counties.

Woodchuck (Marmota monax) borrow is has a mound of dirt next to an exposed, 5¼ to 6¼ wide hole.


Food

Fleshy, underground roots, tubers, and bulbs; succulent stems of young plants, often pulled into the burrow from below by the roots; and small fruits.

 
Life Cycle

Adults breed in early spring. Gestation is about four to seven weeks. A litter of one to three offspring is born between March and May. The young are evicted from the burrow by late summer. Lifespan is usually less than five years.

 
Behavior

This is a solitary rodent that lives in loose colonies. It is active both day and night. It creates an extensive underground tunnel system. Most tunnels are dug in the spring and fall. The main tunnel and birthing tunnel are below the frost line. Lateral tunnels are shallower. Most digging takes place at night and in twilight. Most tunneling is done in search of food. The animal rarely leaves its tunnel except to eject dirt, breed, or forage. It is territorial but has a small territory. It does not hibernate.


Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 7, 13, 15, 29.

Mississippi Valley pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius bursarius) is found in all but the northeastern counties.

The range of plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius majusculus)extends into Minnesota only in the southern half of the southern border counties.


Comments

 


Taxonomy

Order:

Rodentia (rodents)

 

Suborder:

Myomorpha

 

Superfamily:

Geomyoidea

 

Family:

Geomyidae (pocket gophers)

 
Subordinate Taxa

Brazos pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius braznesis)

Illinois Plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius illinoensis)

Mexican pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius mexicanus)

Mississippi Valley pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius bursarius)

Missouri pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius missouriensis)

Oklahoma pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius dutcheri)

Ozark pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius ozarkensis)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius alba)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius canadensis)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius fusca)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius halli)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius hylaeus)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius industrius)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius jugossicularis)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius levisagittalis)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius ludemani)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius major)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius majusculus)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius pratincola)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius saccatus)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius terricolus)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius vinaceus)

Wisconsin pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius wisconsinensis)

Yellow pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius lutescens)

 
Synonyms

 

 
Common
Names

plains pocket gopher


 

 

 

 

 

 

       

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Bill Reynolds


Not often do you find this gopher milling around above ground.

  plains pocket gopher   plains pocket gopher

       
       
       

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  plains pocket gopher   plains pocket gopher
       
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Published on Sep 30, 2013

Georgia compares the Plains Pocket Gopher with Northern Pocket Gopher.

 
     

 

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Published on Aug 11, 2016

Max vs Plains Pocket Gopher

 
     

 

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Bill Reynolds
5/16/2017

Location: Pennington Co Minnesota.

Not often do you find this gopher milling around above ground.

plains pocket gopher


     
     
 

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