No outdoor critter wreaks as much backyard havoc as the gopher. These underground creatures rose to their zenith of fame in the hit movie, Caddy Shack, earning them a reputation for stealth and elusiveness that could put a covert CIA agent to shame.
Gophers are small, destructive rodents that live in burrows below the surface of the earth. Their days are spent creating extensive networks of subterranean tunnels, referred to as gopher towns, in a never-ending search of food. The end result of this constant digging? Destroyed landscapes and stunned homeowners staring at their once immaculate lawns in disbelief.
Gophers are small, burrowing rodents about five to twelve inches long with an average weight of 8 ounces. Powerfully built in the forequarters, their front feet have long, sharp claws. Gophers have brownish soft fur, large check pouches and flattened heads with small ears and eyes. Their hairy tails are about four inches long, and are used to navigate through tunnels when moving backwards.
Gophers create fan-shaped mounds that are often large enough to cause damage to passing farm equipment. It is not uncommon for gopher tunnels to interfere with irrigation systems, dams, fields and, of course, homeowners' lawns and gardens.
Gophers are notorious hoarders. They use their cheek pouches to store food before taking it to their burrows, where they stockpile astounding amounts of food. Gophers are omnivores and love to eat nuts, berries, grass, bulbs, leaves and insects.
Daily Amount: 60% of its bodyweight each day Daily Water: Utilizes moisture in food sources Food Preferences: Nuts, seeds, roots, grass, bulbs, berries, leaves, insects
Gophers live throughout North America, in woodland and grass prairies and from coastal to mountainous regions. They spend their days building complex underground tunnel systems in areas where the soil is soft and easily tunneled.
These large networks can often contain thousands of gopher residents. Gophers are attracted to moist, light-textured soil with edible vegetation. Their main runways are located up to 18 inches below the surface, though their nesting chambers are much deeper, often six feet below the surface.
Geography: Regional North America Nest Location: Underground tunnel systems 18 inches below ground; nesting burrows up to 6 feet below ground Home Range: Up to 700 yards Active Periods: Day and Night
Gophers breed only once or twice a year, typically in the spring. Female gophers give birth to three or four young per litter after a gestation period of less than three weeks. The young develop rapidly and by five weeks are weaned and ready to establish their own burrows. The average lifespan for a gopher is two to three years.
Litter Size: 3-4 No of Litters Per Year: 1-2 Sexual Maturity: 6-12 months Gestation Period: 18-19 days Breeding Season: Spring