Pocket Gophers Four Ways (Geomys and Thomomys spp.)
Forty percent of mammals are rodents, but only 25 percent of Daily Mammal drawings are of rodents. So far! Here’s a small step in correcting that imbalance. Top to bottom, please meet Thomomys bottae, Thomomys talpoides, Geomys bursarius, and Thomomys mazama, also known as Botta’s pocket gopher, northern pocket gopher, plains pocket gopher, and western pocket gopher, respectively.
They represent two different genera (Thomomys is the genus of western pocket gophers and Geomys is the eastern pocket gophers), but all of these little guys are from the same family—the pocket gopher family, of course. Chunky little pocket gophers are burrowers with big, curved incisors; long, strong claws; powerful arms; and external, fur-lined pockets that reach from their faces to their shoulders. They use these pockets for carrying food.
Pocket gophers make two different kinds of tunnels. One is just for finding food, like the roots of plants growing above. The other is for living, and they make separate chambers that serve as bedrooms, pantries, and bathrooms. They’re pretty solitary, and youngsters go roaming off when they’re a couple of months old to make a home of their own.
Although gophers get a bad rap as pests, they actually perform several important functions for humans. They aerate the soil, enrich it with the food they bury but don’t end up eating, and catch snow runoff in their burrows, which helps conserve the soil and water around their homes.