Field Guide/Mammals/Plains Pocket Gopher

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Geomys bursarius (Plains Pocket Gopher)
Family: Geomyidae
Size: Total length: Average- 9 Inches (236 mm)

Tail length: Average- 3 Inches (65 mm)

Weight: Males = 6-7 oz (180-200 g) Females = 4-6 oz (120-160 g) [1]
Description: Plains pocket gophers are medium to small sized, dark brown gophers. They have fur-lined cheek pouches with a thick body and tiny bead-like eyes. Their front claws are long and curved for digging with smaller claws on the hind feet.[1]
Similar Species: The eastern mole is similar, but creates a mound with a cone shape instead of the kidney shape a plains pocket gopher creates.[1]

Range: The plains pocket gopher is from the Great Plains of North America. They have been found in southern Manitoba into the Midwest from eastern North Dakota to Indiana. Their range also extends south into New Mexico and Texas.[2]
Habitat: This species typically likes to be in sandy soils for easier digging while clay type soils are usually avoided. Gophers live primarily solitary lives in burrows and tunnels and seldom travel far over land. They burrow at shallow depths usually in search of food.[1]
Diet: The plains pocket gopher is herbivorous and consists mostly of grasses, forbs, and roots. Most common grasses include brome, oats, and bluegrass. Some studies have indicated that gophers prefer forbs over grasses. All of the gopher’s necessary water is obtained from their food.[3]
Activity: The plains pocket gopher is active day and night, but primarily around the times of sunrise and sunset. This is when they do a great deal of digging. Gophers live within loose, social ‘colonies,’ but are primarily solitary with small home ranges. They stay within burrows and tunnels most of the time. Tunnels between neighbors are not connected.[2]

Reproduction: Mating occurs during the spring. The gestation period is about 30 days. Females give birth to one litter of 4-5 young a year in late spring. When the young are ready to be weaned, the mother evicts them from the burrow. Gophers are sexually mature at 12 months of age.[2]
Lifespan: The average life expectancy for this species is 5 years, but some have been known to live for 10 or 11 years.[4]
Plains Pocket Gopher

  1. a b c d Schmidly, David (1994), [Retrieved from "Plains Pocket Gopher"], The Mammals of Texas-Online Edition, Retrieved from, retrieved October 3, 2012 
  2. a b c Linzey, A.V. (2008), [Retrieved from "Geomys bursarius"], IUCN Red list of Threatened Species, Retrieved from, retrieved October 2, 2012 
  3. Behrend, A; Tester, J (1988), "Feeding ecology of the Plains Pocket Gopher in East Central Minnesota", University of Minnesota,, retrieved October 3, 2012 
  4. Miller, Richard (1964), "Ecology and Distrubition of Pocket Gophers(Geomyidae)in Colorado", Ecological Society of America,, retrieved October 4, 2012