Animals

Pocket Gopher

by Marcia Malory

Pocket gophers are burrowing rodents that belong to the family Geomyidae.

They livein North America and Central America.

The name "pocket gopher" comes from this animal's fur-lined cheek pouches or "pockets", which open up on the outside of each side of the mouth and extend all the way back to the shoulders.

Pocket gophers use these pockets to carry food. They can turn their pockets inside out.

Pocket GopherThese rodents generally range between 6 and 13 inches long and weigh between 1/2 and 1 pound. They have light brown to blackish fur.

They are well adapted to a life of digging underground.

Pocket gophers have strong front legs with long claws. Their eyes are small and sightless.

They have enlarged tear glands, or lacrimal glands. This helps to wash soil out of the pocket gophers' eyes.

They have small external ears.

Pocket gophers have short tails with no hair. These tails have sensitive nerve endings. The pocket gopher uses its tail to find its way backwards through a tunnel. It can move backwards almost as easily as it can move forwards.

Like all rodents, pocket gophers have long incisors that grow continually. Pocket gophers can close their lips behind their incisors. This enables them to dig with their incisors without getting any soil in their mouths.

Animals that are adapted to a life of burrowing are known as fossorial animals.

Pocket gophers are usually solitary, except during breeding season, which lasts from the end of winter to spring. Each adult has its own burrow system.

The burrow of a pocket gopher is deeper than that of a mole.

The pocket gopher digs to about a foot below the surface, so that it can reach the roots and shrubs that it eats.

Its nest, which contains elaborate living rooms, is even deeper and lined with grass.

The nursery is also deep, and lined with fur that the female plucks from her own body.

The burrow also has a storeroom, which is full of nuts, large seeds and pieces of fruit.