Field Guide/Mammals/Northern Pocket Gopher

Thomomys Talpoides (Northern Pocket Gopher)
Family: Geomyidae[1]
Size: The average adult northern pocket gopher weighs 2.75-5 ounces (or 60-160 grams). Their total body length ranges from 6.5-9 inches (or 165-260 mm and their tail length vary from 1.6-2.9 inches (or 40-74 mm).[2]
Description: Northern pocket gophers have a tubed-shaped body, small ears and eyes, and short smooth fur that is brownish to tan. The mammal also displays a short, hairless tail and dark patches behind the ears.[3]
Similar Species: Darker fur color, smaller eyes and black patches of hair around the ears distinguish it from similar species such as the Idaho pocket gopher.[2]

Range: This species has the greatest range of any pocket gopher in North America, ranging from Alberta to Saskatchewan, south to northern Arizona and New Mexico, and from Washington east to Minnesota.[2]
Habitat: Northern pocket gophers occupy a great variety of habitats. They are commonly found in deep soils along streams and cultivated fields. They can also be found in rocky soils and clay, in bushy areas, and even in Alpine tundra.[2]
Diet: Their diet consists of roots of forbs, cacti and grasses.[3]
Activity: Northern gophers are often found digging, constructing elaborate networks of tunnels. They are very territorial and aggressive, except during mating season. There are brief periods of inactivity during the summer and winter but do not truly hibernate at any time.[2]

Reproduction: Female northern pocket gophers breed once a year. Mating periods vary depending on weather and latitude, but often occur from March to mid-June. A female produces a litter of 4-7 young after a gestation period of 19-20 months.[3]
Lifespan: The species can live up to 6 years in captivity. In the wild, they are expected to live between 18-24 months. Every 5 years there is a total population replacement. Similar to other mammals, the females live longer than males, so there are times in the late summer where the majority of the species population is female.[3]

Notes: The northern pocket gopher gets its name from their fur-lined cheek pouches, or pockets, which are used for carrying food. Their whiskers and tail serve as sensory mechanisms to assist them in navigating in the dark.[4]

Another interesting note is that pocket gophers are rarely observed above ground. And when they are above ground, they never venture very far away from their burrow entrance.[1]
Northern Pocket Gopher


  1. a b Linzey, A.V. (2008), Thomomys talpoides,, retrieved (October 4, 2012) 
  2. a b c d e McMahon, J.A. (1999), Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals,, retrieved (October 11, 2012)  Invalid <ref> tag; name "name" defined multiple times with different content Invalid <ref> tag; name "name" defined multiple times with different content Invalid <ref> tag; name "name" defined multiple times with different content Invalid <ref> tag; name "name" defined multiple times with different content
  3. a b c d Streubel, D. (2000), Thomomys talpoides,, retrieved (October 11, 2012) 
  4. Link, R (n.d.), Living with wildlife in the pacific northwest,, retrieved (October 11, 2012)