Pocket gophers, also known simply as gophers, are burrowing rodents that spend most of their lives underground. They construct their burrows by digging a main tunnel up to 18 inches below the ground and then excavating a series of lateral tunnels that branch off from the main one. This keeps gophers protected as they forage for food and raise their young. Their burrowing and tunneling activities, however, create headaches for property owners, as gopher burrows can feature up to 600 feet of tunnels marked by mounds of dirt that ruin the appearance of lawns and gardens. Gopher problems also arise when the rodents feed on garden crops, ornamental plants, shrubs, and trees.
Biology & Behavior
Pocket gophers and borrowing rodents, 7 to 13 inches long and weighing 3 to 14 ounces, that spend most of their lives below ground. They are named for the fur lined cheek pouches located along side of the mouth. The pockets are used to carry food. Gophers have powerfully built forequarters with large claws on their front feet, a short neck, external ears, small eyes, and lips that close behind their large incisors. Four species of pocket gophers are found in Utah. The four species are distributed in almost entirely different areas, possibly because of different ecological requirements or competition. Plains pocket gophers are abundant in sandy and silty soils of the plains, but they are not abundant in compacted soils. The northern pocket gopher can be found in the deep, sandy soils of the plains and in the shallow gravel of mountainous areas. It is the most common species in mountain rangelands and forests. The valley pocket gopher is found mainly in soils of warm valleys in southern Utah. The yellow-faced pocket gopher inhabits a portion of the area in southeastern Utah where the plains pocket gopher is found. However, the yellow-faced pocket gopher is confined to drier sites or sites with soils that are less favorable for the plains pocket gopher. Pocket gophers attain the highest densities on light textured soils with good herbage production. Shallow soils limit pocket gopher populations because of tunnel cave-in and poor insulation from summer and winter temperatures. Pocket gophers build burrow systems by loosening the soil with their claws and incisors. Gophers then use their forefeet and chest to push the soil out of the burrow. The soil is deposited in fan shaped mounds 12 to 18 inches wide and 4 to 6 inches high. Burrow systems consist of main tunnel 4 to 18 inches below the soil surface and numerous lateral burrows extending from the main. Lateral burrows end with a soil mound or a soil plug at the surface. Burrows are 2 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter depending on the size of the gopher. A burrow system varies from linear to highly branched and may contain up to 200 yards of tunnels and several mounds. Mound building by a single gopher brings 1-1 1/4 to 2- 2 1/2 tons of soil to the surface each year. Pocket gophers usually breed in the spring and produce 1 litter of 3 to 6 young after a gestation period of about 20 days. Usually, only 1 adult is found in each burrow system except during breeding and while raising young. Six to eight pocket gophers per acre are considered high densities, whereas northern pocket gophers occasionally reach densities of 20 per acre. Young pocket gophers usually begin dispersing from the natal burrow in June, when about half grown. Pocket gophers feed on roots encountered while digging, vegetation pulled into the tunnel from below, and aboveground vegetation near the tunnel. Pocket gophers prefer aboveground vegetation that is green and succulent. Pocket gophers prefer succulent forbs in spring and summer, but they also feed on grasses. Many trees and shrubs are clipped just above ground, especially under snow cover.
What Does a Gopher Sound Like?
Gophers are usually silent, however sometimes they emit high-pitched squeaks. Other common gopher sounds include scratching and gnawing noises.
Gophers do not hibernate, but instead burrow into the snow; often fill tunnels with soil forming worm-like cores that remain in the spring after snow melts.
Gopher droppings look very similar to rat scat, but in a greenish or grayish color. They can typically be seen scattered in their burrows, but droppings will also been seen anywhere that the gopher go.
Pocket gophers reduce the productivity of those portions of alfalfa fields and native grasslands on which they are found by 20 to 50 percent. If gophers are present on 10 percent of a field, they may reduce overall forage productivity of the field by 2 to 5 percent. Gopher mounds damage and interfere with hay harvesting equipment. Gophers sometimes damage trees by girdling or clipping stems and by pruning roots. Gophers may, at times, destroy underground utility cables and irrigation lines. On the other hand, gophers are beneficial in several ways. Their burrowing activities increase soil fertility by adding organic matter in the form of plant materials and feces. The burrowing reduces soil compaction and increases water infiltration, soil aeration, and the rate of soil formation.
Commonly ASKED QUESTIONS?
What do you do with trapped animals?
That answer depends on the state in which you live. Each state has their own laws that dictate what we must do when it comes to controlling wildlife on your property. In some states, we can trap, transfer and release the animals. In some states we can trap the animals, but we can only release them back onto your own property. If you don’t want the animal released on your property, it must be humanely euthanized. Sometimes we don’t even need to trap the animal and a simple exclusion device (one-way door) can be installed to allow the animal to exit your home and be locked out.
How much does it cost to remove an animal?
There are a number of factors that determine pricing; location of the animal (i.e. – chimney, attic, crawl, wall void, living area), condition of the animal (i.e. – sick, aggressive, dead), location and condition of the property and time of year (i.e. – weather condition, offspring present?). Generally speaking, pricing will vary by location and species for just the animal removal and that pricing usually does not include the entry repair.
I think I have birds in my chimney, can you get them out?
The answer to that question is most likely “Yes”, but are you sure what you’re hearing is birds? Raccoons easily invade chimneys and they have their litters on the smoke shelf of fireplaces. The sounds baby raccoons make are often mistaken for birds in chimneys and removal can be difficult. The only birds that nest in chimneys are chimney swifts and they’re federally protected, so removal can’t be performed, but exclusion can be – once they depart. If you have a pre-fabricated chimney and birds fall between the cooling tubes, removal is nearly impossible.
How soon can you get here?
Office hours vary from franchise to franchise, but generally speaking, office hours are 8am – 6pm M-F and 9am – 3pm on Saturdays.
“Prompt service and got the raccoon out of our chimney easily. No mess. Very friendly guys! Thanks for you help!”
“Zack and Jerry were nice, clean, fast, very professional, got those raccoons out of our attic nice and quick, they don’t try to over sell you, no pressure, I very much recommend them…”
“Zack and his tech at Critter Removers were excellent! They were always quick to respond! They made us feel like we were a priority. They were knowledgeable about the best way to go about solving our raccoon problem.”
“They were quick to respond, and very efficient. They even responded to my call very early in the morning. I had a mom and 3 very big, very loud baby raccoons in my chimney and they were great at taking care of the problem.”
“Zach was great! He answered our several calls late at night and walked us through the process of removing a dead raccoon from our chimney. He worked quickly and efficiently, we were very impressed. We will definitely use him again!”
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