Date of this Version
Thirty-four species of pocket gophers, represented by five genera, occupy the western hemisphere. In the United States there are 13 species and three genera. The major features differentiating these genera are the size of their forefeet, claws, and front surfaces of their chisel-like incisors.
Thomomys have smooth-faced incisors and small forefeet with small claws. Northern pocket gophers (Thomomys talpoides) are typically from 6 1/2 to 10 inches (17 to 25 cm) long. Their fur is variable in color but is often yellowish brown with pale underparts. Botta’s (or valley) pocket gophers (Thomomys bottae) are extremely variable in size and color. Botta’s pocket gophers are 5 inches to about 13 1/2 inches (13 to 34 cm) long. Their color varies from almost white to black.
Geomys have two grooves on each upper incisor and large forefeet and claws. Plains pocket gophers (Geomys bursarius) vary in length from almost 7 1/2 to 14 inches (18 to 36 cm). Their fur is typically brown but may vary to black. Desert pocket gophers (Geomys arenarius) are always brown and vary from nearly 8 3/4 to 11 inches (22 to 28 cm) long. Texas pocket gophers (Geomys personatus) are also brown and are from slightly larger than 8 3/4 to nearly 13 inches (22 to 34 cm) long. Southeastern pocket gophers (Geomys pinetis) are of various shades of brown, depending on soil color, and are from 9 to 13 1/4 inches (23 to 34 cm) long. Pappogeomys have a single groove on each upper incisor and, like Geomys, have large forefeet with large claws.
Yellow-faced pocket gophers (Pappogeomys castanops) vary in length from slightly more than 5 1/2 to just less than 7 1/2 inches (14 to 19 cm). Their fur color varies from pale yellow to dark reddish brown. The underparts vary from whitish to bright yellowish buff. Some hairs on the back and top of the head are dark-tipped.
Range: Pocket gophers are found only in the Western Hemisphere. They range from Panama in the south to Alberta in the north. With the exception of the southeastern pocket gopher, they occur throughout the western two-thirds of the United States.
Exclusion: Generally not practical. Small mesh wire fence may provide protection for ornamental trees and shrubs or flower beds. Plastic netting protects seedlings.
Cultural Methods: Damage resistant varieties of alfalfa. Crop rotation. Grain buffer strips. Control of tap-rooted forbs. Flood irrigation. Plant naturally resistant varieties of seedlings.
Repellents: Synthetic predator odors are all of questionable benefit.
Toxicants: Baits: Strychnine alkaloid. Zinc phosphide. Chlorophacinone. Diphacinone. Fumigants: Carbon monoxide from engine exhaust. Others are not considered very effective, but some are used: Aluminum phosphide. Gas cartridges.
Trapping: Various specialized gopher kill traps. Common spring or pan trap (sizes No. 0 and No. 1).
Shooting: Not practical.
Other: Buried irrigation pipe or electrical cables can be protected with cylindrical pipe having an outside diameter of at least 2.9 inches (7.4 cm). Surrounding a buried cable with 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) of coarse gravel (1 inch [2.5 cm] in diameter) may provide some protection.