Scientific name: Geomys bursarius
Size: as tall as one foot; as much as one pound for adults
Coloring: sandy to chocolate brown fur, depending on location
Habitat: open to sparse forests; prefer sandy and silty soils
Diet: herbivore; roots, stems & leaves of various plants
Predators: preyed upon by coyotes, weasels, hawks, owls and skakes
Behavioir: solitary & territorial; interacts with others during mating season alone
Reproduction: mating begins very early spring, 1 - 3 per litter; born April-June; offpsring leaves after 2 months
More information found at the Animal Diversity Web.
Though some Hoosiers may find them in their yards, pocket gophers are usually seen in the northwest and prefer prairie habitats if available.
The Conservancy's Kankakee Sands is home to a number of rare & threatened species, including the plains pocket gopher. A visit to the trails may offer you a glimpse of these toothy creatures .
The Plains Pocket Gopher is the kind of rodent that prefers life underground - a situation for which it is well-suited. Its small eyes, tiny external ears, powerful front legs for burrowing and long claws for digging provide them the perfect tools to live beneath the soil.
However, it is the mouth of the gopher that holds its best instruments. Large incised teeth are just as good for tearing into vegetation as they are for digging the gopher's deep tunnel systems. Close behind the incisors are the lips which allow them to dig with their teeth without getting soil in its mouth. With all the mouth-digging, how, exactly, does a gopher eat without consuming a bunch of soil? A clue is in its name.
The Plain pocket gopher is named for the large external, fur-lined pouches in both cheeks. The cheek pouches are filled rapidly with the forepaws, using a wiping motion that forces the food into the open end of the mouth. Food is transported in these pouches, and what is not eaten is stored in caches in the burrow system.
The gopher's tunnel systems can extend in all directions and measure up to several hundred feet long. The telltale signs of their presence are the sandy mounds created on the surface as the gopher excavates dirt from the tunnel. Though viewed by some as eyesores on their pristine lawns, gopher tunnels are quite beneficial. Their burrowing not only increases soil aeration and water infiltration, but reduces soil compaction as well.
Though many people may not appreciate all this hard work, the plains pocket gopher is a species of special concern in Indiana and is protected by law. The Department of Natural Resources would appreciate being contacted before any attempts are made to eradicate these rodents from your yard. The Wildlife Conflicts Information Hotline can also be helpful.