Gopher, a burrowing rodent found from southern Canada south to Panama There are 37 species of gophers, 15 of which are found in the United States. This article is about the pocket gopher, named for its fur-lined outer cheek pouches, or pockets, in which it carries food. For other rodents sometimes called gophers,
A pocket gopher is from about 7 to 12 inches (18 to 30 cm) long, including the short, hairless tail. The short fur is usually dull brown, but may be blackish or nearly white. The gopher's husky body and head resemble those of the rat; the eyes and ears are small. Its yellowish upper incisors, or gnawing teeth, are always visible because the lips close behind them. The sturdy forefeet have long claws for digging. It moves backward almost as fast as forward, using its sensitive tail as a guide. Gophers often damage root crops, such as carrots.
The gopher spends most of its life underground. It digs rapidly, sloping its burrow downward from the fan-shaped mound of dirt around the entrance. As it digs, it pushes the dirt back out through the opening. Then it plugs the entrance with earth to keep out such enemies as snakes and coyotes. Leading from the main tunnel are the gopher's nest, which is a grass-lined chamber, and numerous chambers with stored roots and other vegetation. A gopher remains active all winter. There are usually 2 to 10 young, born hairless, to a litter.
Gophers belong to the family Geomyidae. Most of the species in the United States and Canada belong to the genus Geomys (eastern pocket gophers) or to the genus Thomomys (western pocket gophers).