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Pocket Gopher

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Pocket gophers, commonly referred to as just gophers, are rarely seen as they spend most of their time underground. They get their name from their external, fur-lined, cheek pouches which they use to carry food. In Minnesota, there are two species of gophers: the northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides) and the plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius).

The northern pocket gopher is quite rare and is found exclusively in western Kittson County in the extreme northwestern corner of Minnesota.

The more common plains pocket gopher can be found throughout Minnesota, including the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.

Gophers are a nuisance pest because of their extensive and damaging tunneling. Gophers dig a network of crisscrossing tunnels that provide both their habitat and a means of locating food. Gopher tunnels are typically larger in diameter than mole tunnels and vary in both length and depth.

Minnesota Counties Offer Bounties for Pocket Gophers.

The most effective way to prevent property damage caused by gophers is by trapping. Many counties in Minnesota offer bounties for gophers under state laws that have been in place since 1909. To learn more about how to trap gophers, visit the University of Minnesota Extension services website.

More About Pocket Gopher

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE GOPHERS?

Mounds are usually the first visual sign of gopher activity. Unlike mole tunnels, gopher tunnels are not visible above ground. Gophers are capable of creating many fan-shaped piles of dirt or “gopher mounds” in a day and within a year can quite literally push several tons of dirt to the surface.

WHAT DO GOPHERS LOOK LIKE?

  • Gophers grow to about 10” to 12” in length and may weigh up to one pound.
  • They have brown fur that closely matches the color of the soil.
  • They have small eyes and a short hairy tail.
  • And of course, they have large cheek pouches.

ARE GOPHERS DANGEROUS?

Because they are always underground, gophers are not likely to come into contact with people or pets. However, gophers can and will bite when they feel cornered or scared. A more common concern is that gophers can carry fleas and ticks into your yard Also, like any rodent, gophers can potentially carry harmful diseases such as hantavirus, leptospirosis, and the Monkeypox virus, although there are no known incidences of diseases being spread to humans by gophers.

CAN MY YARD BE DAMAGED BY GOPHERS?

Gophers can quickly wreak havoc on your lawn, vegetable gardens, flower beds, seedlings, and shrubs. Gophers will chew through pipes and electrical systems associated with wells, pumps, and sprinkler systems. They especially target irrigation systems because they need fresh water to survive.

Structural damage to sidewalks, driveways, and roads can be caused by gophers tunneling below. As the gophers remove significant amounts of soil, voids are created which cannot support the concrete or asphalt above, causing cracks and holes. Gopher mounds can also create unsafe trip-and-fall accidents for people in parks and on municipal playing fields; and for farm animals in pastures.

WHY ARE GOPHERS IN MY YARD?

Like you, gophers love a beautiful yard! Because gophers do a lot of digging, they prefer loose, sandy soil that’s easy to move. And they need to eat, so they will go where there is a source of food (and water). They feed on roots and tubers of plants and seeded acorns but sometimes will feed on grass and clover. and other snacks.”

WHAT DO GOPHERS EAT?

Unlike moles, gophers are herbivores and eat many types of plants, including garden vegetables that grow beneath the ground such as carrots, potatoes, and onions, as well as roots and bulbs.

WHAT IS THE LIFECYCLE OF GOPHERS?

Gophers in Minnesota typically breed once or twice per year and give birth to 3 to 6 young per litter. By 5 weeks, young gophers are weaned and ready to establish their own burrows. Gophers live about five years.