Extension Wildlife & Fisheries Specialists Conferences


Date of this Version

October 2006


Published in Proceedings, 11th Triennial National Wildlife & Fisheries Extension Specialists Conference, October 14-18, 2006, Big Sky, MT.


The Plains pocket gopher has the largest range of its genus, and it is the gopher that inhabits much of Wisconsin. Gophers are fossorial herbivores that have a dramatic impact on natural and agricultural ecosystems. Throughout the summer of 2005, I completed a population analysis of the plains pocket gopher in a variety of habitats in Buffalo and Trempealeau Counties, Wisconsin, that provided valuable insight into the complex population dynamics of the gopher and served as a foundation to this project. Pocket gophers are known to be strictly subterranean; however, it is not uncommon to find their remains inside the contents of owl pellets. This raises the question: to what extent if any are predatory birds utilizing pocket gophers as a food source? Therefore, determining the above-ground habits of pocket gophers will provide valuable information as to their ecological impact and social interactions in a variety of habitats. I assessed pocket gopher activity in western Wisconsin in 2006 by continuing to monitor population densities, and by incorporating a live trapping protocol that utilizes luminescent dust to track above-ground movements of the pocket gopher. I improved upon my newly-developed protocol as the study was carried out, and results show this to be a viable option for the live trapping of pocket gophers. No gophers were found to utilize above-ground movements for emigration or dispersal; however, mounding activity once again displayed that the dusting protocol was a reliable tool and provided additional insight into the movements of the pocket gopher and their role as a prey species. Population densities in alfalfa production areas and in Conservation Reserve Program lands (CRP) or native grasslands continued to parallel those of my prior trapping projects, reinforcing population trends in these areas.