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Pocket Gophers: Geomyidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Pocket gophers are rarely seen because they spend almost their entire lives underground. Also, these animals are generally crepuscular (kri-PUS-kyuh-lur), active at dawn and dusk, and some are nocturnal, active at night. Pocket gophers do not hibernate, go into a resting state to conserve energy, and in general, are active year round.

These animals forage, look for food, through the ground, burrowing, or digging, a set of complex tunnels. Where the digging is easy, pocket gophers are able to tunnel as much as 200 to 300 feet (61 to 91 meters) in a single night. They dig primarily with their powerful front claws. They use their upper incisors to cut roots and loosen soil and rocks. They use their sensitive tail and whiskers to feel their way around in the dark.

Pocket gophers generally dig two kinds of tunnels. One type of tunnel is long, winding, and shallow. They use this type to get food from above. The second type of tunnel is deeper. They use these tunnels for shelter, with chambers for nests, food storage, and fecal, waste, deposits. The tunnels are usually marked above ground by small mounds of earth. When not in use, these animals plug up burrow entrances with dirt. Pocket gophers can run backward in their burrows almost as fast as they can run forward. Burrows may be occupied by the same animal for several years and spread over an acre (0.4 hectares) of ground.

Pocket gophers are extremely unsocial. They live alone in their burrow system. When one pocket gopher meets another, they squeal and hiss at one another, and their teeth chatter. They may fight violently. One is often killed in the fight.

The only time pocket gophers spend time with others of their species is during the mating season. Generally in the spring, the male leaves his den and briefly goes into the burrow of a female. Pocket gophers typically breed only once per year, although some species are capable of breeding in the spring and fall. Gestation, pregnancy, ranges from eighteen to more than thirty days, with the smaller species having the lower gestation times. Litter size varies from one to ten offspring. Until they are five weeks old the babies' eyes and ears are sealed shut. Offspring stay with the mother in the burrow for one to two months, and then each sets off to burrow its own system of tunnels.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsPocket Gophers: Geomyidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Pocket Gophers And People, Valley Pocket Gopher (thomomys Bottae): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS