Discover Gopher Fun Facts

Today at Light Future Art, we’re going to shine some light on an animal who spends most of their time in the dark, underground, and who some of you may be very familiar with: gophers!

 

Gopher on Back Legs1. Gophers which you might find in your yard are actually called pocket gophers (because of their cheek pouches, or pockets), and there are 34 different species of pocket gophers in the Western hemisphere, the only place they can be found. Of these 34 species, 13 can be found in the United States.
2. Pocket gophers’ closest living relatives are pocket mice and kangaroo rats, both animals who hoard food as gophers do.
3. Gophers need to eat about 60% of the body weight in plants every day. The plants which commonly make up their diet are roots, weeds, grass, bushes, and herbs.
4. Sometimes a gopher needs to move backward in their tunnels. When they do this, they arch their tail upwards so that the tip touches the roof of their tunnel. Their tail is sensitive enough that its guidance lets them move as quickly and easily backward as their do forwards.

 

Baby Gopher 5. Gophers use their teeth to dig, but to prevent dirt from getting into their mouth or accidentally inhaling it, their lips are actually adapted to close behind their incisors (the teeth they use for digging).
6. Gophers are notorious for hoarding food in their cheek pouches. They keep the food they collect in their tunnels to eat when food is scarcer. In order to clean out their cheek pouches, gophers are actually capable of turning them inside out.
7. Most of the time, gophers will be solitary. That is, they won’t be found with other gophers. They will sometimes share their burrows with other animals, however. Interactions between gophers can often be hostile and they fight viciously to defend their burrows from each other.

 

Gopher Peeks Head from Burrow8. A mother will care for her babies, called pups, for only a few weeks. After this time, they are capable of caring for themselves and set out to dig their own burrows.
9. If a gopher lives in an area with a lot of water, she may have up to three litters of pups every year. In drier areas, she will usually only have one litter.
10. Although gophers are often called pests and might frustrate landowners with their tunnels, gophers are vital to the ecosystems they live in. Their tunnels aerate the soil and capture rain and snowmelt which would erode away precious soil otherwise. In this way, they often revitalize land which has been overworked by machinery or overgrazed.

 

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