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Pocket Gophers: Geomyidae

Valley Pocket Gopher (thomomys Bottae): Species Account

Physical characteristics: The valley pocket gopher is also commonly know as Botta's pocket gopher, smooth-toothed pocket gopher, and western pocket gopher. Valley pocket gophers have a combined head and body length of 6 to 13 inches (15 to 33 centimeters). Claws on their front feet are relatively small. Fur color varies among individuals, ranging from pale gray to reddish brown to black. The belly is grayish white, white, light yellowish brown, or mottled, splotched. An identifying characteristic of these animals is a single indistinct groove on each incisor.

Geographic range: Valley pocket gophers are found in the western United States into northern Mexico. They can live at altitudes from sea level to 10,000 feet (3,000 meters).

Valley pocket gophers spend 90 percent of their time below ground. By the roots, they can pull entire plants underground into their burrows. (© Tom McHugh/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: These animals can live in a wide range of habitats. They occur in soils ranging from loose sands to tight clays, and in dry deserts to mountainous meadows. They commonly live in valleys, woodlands, deserts, and agricultural fields.

Diet: Valley pocket gophers feed on below ground plants such as roots and tubers. They especially like the roots of alfalfa. From its root, pocket gophers can pull the entire plant into its burrow to eat or store the food. They will also come to the surface to feed and clip off vegetation near the entrance of their burrow.

Behavior and reproduction: Valley pocket gophers are solitary animals that are active throughout the year. They burrow a system of tunnels and spend about 90 percent of their time below ground.

During the breeding season males will briefly join females in their burrows. The main breeding season is in spring, however these animals will sometimes breed in the fall also. Females generally bear two to four offspring per litter.

Valley pocket gophers and people: Farmers and gardeners may consider these animals pests. Valley pocket gophers can be destructive to plants, and people will trap or poison them. Yet the burrowing activity of these animals cultivates the soil, and vegetation and many organisms are dependent upon their continued activity.

Conservation status: This species is not listed as threatened by the IUCN. ∎



Clutton-Brock, Juliet, and Don E. Wilson, ed. consultants. Smithsonian Handbooks: Mammals. New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2002.

Macdonald, David, ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1984.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th ed. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Nowak, Ronald M. "Pocket Gophers." Walker's Mammals of the World Online 5.1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/rodentia/rodentia.geomyidae.html (accessed on July 7, 2004).


Benedix, J. H. Jr. "A Predictable Pattern of Daily Activity by the Pocket Gopher Geomys bursarius." Animal Behaviour (September 1994): 501–509.

Brower, Kenneth. "The Proof is in the Pellet." Audubon (March 2004): 78.

Web sites:

Myers, P. "Family Geomyidae (Pocket Gophers)." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Geomyidae.html (accessed on July 7, 2004).

"Pocket Gophers." Colorado Division of Wildlife. http://wildlife.state.co.us/Education/mammalsguide/pocket_gophers.asp (accessed on July 7, 2004).

"The Pocket Gopher." Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Illinois). http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/natbltn/400-499/nb493.htm (accessed on July 7, 2004).

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