Northern Pocket Gopher

13 Sep

Wonderful natural things I saw today:    1.  Pronghorn in town on my walk home.  A beautiful momma snorted at me and flared her white rump patches because I was watching her twins.  2.  Various flocks of starlings, robins and grackles flying busily through the neighborhoods.  3.  A white-breasted nuthatch on the cottonwood out front, like the one that wintered here.  Could it be that the same one has returned?

Wonderful natural thing I did not see today or this year, but should have:  Northern pocket gopher, Thomomys talpoides.  I saw this crazy looking animal busily digging a tunnel in an open meadow in the National Forest east of Laramie last year, and I watched all summer to see one again, but no luck.  He’s such a funny creature, that I felt he deserved a blog, even though he didn’t show his whiskered face to me this year.

These guys do not hibernate, but tunnel under the snow during the winter, sometimes caching food from the growing season to make it through the bleak months.  Wikipedia states:  ” A special note about the Northern Pocket Gopher is that it rarely appears above ground; when it does, it rarely ventures more than 2.5 feet from a burrow entrance. Underground, however, they often have tunnels that extend hundreds of feet where they live, store food and mate.”  I felt lucky to watch this guy dig his tunnel last year, especially because it is the only time I ever saw one!

1 Comment

Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Nature


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One response to “Northern Pocket Gopher

  1. Jane Hendrix

    December 23, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Really GREAT photos of this reclusive animal! In my area, northern pocket gophers are common but it’s usually only their dirt mounds and “eskers” that divulge their presence. I, too, have seen one excavating his tunnel but wasn’t quick enough to grab my camera. In the wild, these burrowing rodents keep rampant plants (native or non-native) in check, and their mounds of dirt provide a perfect medium for seeds to germinate. But in the garden, they are a terrible pest, eating bulbs and roots and burying low-growing plants under their many mounds.

    I got here when I was searching for an open-faced photo of Monkshood (Aconitum columbianum) to compare with one I had taken. Yours clinched my ID of my “mystery” species. Your photography is wonderful especially now when snow is piling up and all green things are buried under a white blanket until June. Thanks for sharing.


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