VALLEY POCKET GOPHER – Thomomys bottae


Valley pocket gopher facts: The valley pocket gopher is also commonly know as Botta’s pocket gopher, smooth-toothed pocket gopher, and western pocket gopher. Valley pocket gophers have a combined head and body length of 6 to 13 inches (15 to 33 centimeters). Claws on their front feet are relatively small. Fur color varies among individuals, ranging from pale gray to reddish brown to black. The belly is grayish white, white, light yellowish brown, or mottled, splotched. An identifying characteristic of these animals is a single indistinct groove on each incisor.

Geographic range: Valley pocket gophers are found in the western United States into northern Mexico. They can live at altitudes from sea level to 10,000 feet (3,000 meters).

Valley pocket gopher habitat: These animals can live in a wide range of habitats. They occur in soils ranging from loose sands to tight clays, and in dry deserts to mountainous meadows. They commonly live in valleys, woodlands, deserts, and agricultural fields.

What does valley pocket gopher eat: Valley pocket gophers feed on below ground plants such as roots and tubers. They especially like the roots of alfalfa. From its root, pocket gophers can pull the entire plant into its burrow to eat or store the food. They will also come to the surface to feed and clip off vegetation near the entrance of their burrow.

Behavior and reproduction: Valley pocket gophers are solitary animals that are active throughout the year. They burrow a system of tunnels and spend about 90 percent of their time below ground.

During the breeding season males will briefly join females in their burrows. The main breeding season is in spring, however these animals will sometimes breed in the fall also. Females generally bear two to four offspring per litter.

Valley pocket gophers and people: Farmers and gardeners may consider these animals pests. Valley pocket gophers can be destructive to plants, and people will trap or poison them. Yet the burrowing activity of these animals cultivates the soil, and vegetation and many organisms are dependent upon their continued activity.

Conservation status: This species is not listed as threatened by the IUCN.