There are many similarities between the 13 species of gophers found in the U.S. While focusing on the differences between these two species, it is worthwhile to point out gophers are generally considered as pests to rangelands, agricultural fields and in suburban lawns and property.
The Northern Pocket Gopher – Thomomys talpoides
RANGE: Colorado, Wyoming, western three-quarters of the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho and the eastern half of Oregon and Washington
- Thick bodies with small rounded ears
- Small front feet with small claws
- The upper and lower incisor teeth are smooth, without grooves
- Body is about six to 10 inches long
- Fur color varies, but is often light-brown and pale on the undersides
- The northern pocket gopher lives in the greatest variety of habitats of any other pocket gopher species. Their typical habitat is high elevation meadows, valley grasslands, sagebrush and agricultural fields. They prefer habitat with a lot of groundcover and few or no trees.
- This gopher prefers to burrow in well-drained, clay and shallow, rocky soils
- Four to seven offspring in a litter, with one litter per year. The average lifespan in the wild is one to three years.
- Like most other pocket gopher species, they are solitary and territorial. Males leave their burrows in early spring to mate, but then return to their own territory. Other than during mating season, pocket gophers are very aggressive toward each other.
- The Northern pocket gopher generally eats the roots and stems of plants. They avoid woody vegetation. Grasses and crops are their preferred plant foods.
The Plains Pocket Gopher – Geomys bursarius
RANGE: Mississippi river west to the Rocky Mountains and north from Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas.
- The upper two incisor teeth have two grooves
- Full grown adults are usually seven to 14 inches long
- Fur color is usually brown, but may vary from grayish-brown to black.
- Large front feet with large claws.
- Found in areas with deep, sandy, crumbly soils that are open, sparsely wooded.
- One to three offspring in a litter, with one litter per year. The average lifespan is two to three years.
- Plains pocket gophers are territorial and solitary. They only leave their territory to mate in early spring, and will return afterward. With the exception of the time during mating season, pocket gophers are very aggressive toward each other.
- The plains pocket gopher may sometimes leave its burrow to forage for above-ground vegetation, but it feeds mainly on underground roots. They get enough water from their food, so the plains gopher rarely drinks water.