U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

May 2007


Published in Subterranean Rodents: News from Underground.


With over 2000 species, the order Rodentia has more members than any other order of mammals (Nowak 1999). The distribution of rodents is nearly worldwide; their use of habitats is extensive and varied. Most rodent species are relatively small, secretive, prolific, and all have continuously growing incisors. Many rodent species have ecological, scientific, cultural, and/or economic importance.

A variety of economic and health problems result from rodent interactions with humans. These include damage to growing crops, trees, seeds, pastures; damage and contamination of stored foods; damage to structures and property; and disease transmission (Witmer et al. 1995a). Singleton et al. (2003) estimated that in Asia alone, the amount of grain eaten by rodents would provide enough food to feed 200 million Asians for a year.

Notably, few (perhaps 5%) rodent species around the world are serious pests. Examples of genera and species of rodents considered to be serious pests around the world were provided by Prakash (1988) and Witmer et al. (1995a). Hence, when a damage situation occurs, it is very important to determine the species causing the damage, the extent of the damage, and the abiotic-biotic-cultural factors involved before rodent population and damage management strategies are implemented (Singleton et al. 1999).

We use the North American subterranean rodents, pocket gophers, to illustrate the nature of rodent pests, the types and extent of damages, and the management measures used to reduce populations and damage.