What Does a Gopher Look Like? Gophers Overview

what does a gopher look like
Gophers are rodents that actually spend most of their life underground. Gophers are brown in color and have short limbs. They are vegetarians that eat almost any type of plant. Their diet primarily consists of grass and roots. Gophers are active all year and don't hibernate. 

What does a gopher look like?

Gophers are medium-sized rodents. Their fur color can range from a light brown to dark brown. Their underbelly is a lighter brown than the rest of their body. Gophers have short limbs, small eyes, and small ears.

The cheeks on a gopher have external pouches that they use to carry food. These pouches extend to their shoulders. Gophers are also called pocket gophers due to their cheek pockets. A gopher has a flat head, a short snout, and whiskers. They have four large front teeth.

Gophers have short, hairless tails. These critters are often mistaken for moles and groundhogs. There are a total of thirty-four species of gophers. All these species are found in the western hemisphere. Thirteen of these species are found in the United States. 

10 Gopher Facts

  1. Gopher lips are adapted to fit behind their four incisors so that dirt doesn’t get in their mouth while they dig. 
  2. Gophers are considered pests by homeowners because they can ruin yards and gardens with their eating and digging habits. 
  3. Gophers turn their cheek pouches inside out to clean them. 
  4. Gophers make high-pitched screaming sounds to warn other gophers that danger is near.
  5. An adult gopher usually weighs about half a pound and can be up to eight inches long. 
  6. Gophers have poor hearing and eyesight. They rely on their excellent sense of touch for survival. They use their whiskers and tail to feel out their surroundings. 
  7. Gophers eat large amounts. A single gopher will eat up to sixty percent of its body weight in one day. 
  8. Gophers are solitary and territorial creatures. They usually only interact with their own kind during mating season. 
  9. Gophers usually live up to about five years.
  10. Gophers are fossorial, meaning they primarily live underground. 
where do gophers live

Do gophers have tails?

Gophers have tails. The tail of a gopher could have a small amount of fur or could be completely hairless. Their tails are about four inches long. 

Gopher tails are sensitive, and they use them to help with their sense of direction. Gophers often move backward, and they’ll use their tails to guide them. 

What do gophers eat?

Gophers are herbivores that will eat just about any type of plant. Gophers enjoy a plant’s roots, bulbs, and tubers more than the tops of plants. They use their short arms to dig to get to the underground part of the plant. 

A gopher’s diet mainly consists of grass. Below is a list of their favorite types of grasses:

  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Mosquito grass
  • Needle and thread grass
  • Prairie Junegrass 
  • Scouring Rush 

Gophers often accidentally eat grubs and insects while eating grass. They do not intentionally hunt insects. Gophers also eat on shrubs and bark. They will also eat flowers, including succulents.

The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus is a type of succulent that gophers most commonly eat. Their favorite flowers to eat are alfalfas and dandelions.

Gophers occasionally eat vegetables. Vegetables they eat include carrots, sweet potatoes, and onions. Gophers rarely eat nuts, fruits, or seeds. 

Where do gophers live?

Gophers can thrive in a variety of environments and can survive a wide range of altitudes. They prefer moist soil since they live underground. Gophers create extensive burrows with tunnel systems.

Gophers’ tunnels have different sections and each have their own purpose. For example, one section may be used for eating, and another part may be used for excreting. A gopher’s burrow is usually made in areas with large amounts of vegetation.

The gophers use the vegetation for shelter to hide in their burrow hole and as a nearby food source. Gopher holes could be found in wooded areas, plains, flower beds, and sandy areas. Their holes are surrounded by mounds of dirt from their digging to create the burrow. 

The burrows that gophers create are very similar to the burrows that other critters make. Voles, ground squirrels, and moles are other wild animals that also create burrows in this way.

picture of a gopher near its hole

When do gophers come out of their holes?

Gophers could be found out of their holes at any time, but they are most likely to come out of them in the evening. Gophers spend the majority of their lifetime underground.

If they need to come out of their burrow, they will do so at night to lower their chances of being seen by a predator. A common predator of gophers are barn owls.

Gophers usually only leave their burrows to find food or to move to a new place. They also may come out to find materials for their burrows. They may be in search of twigs or rocks to strengthen their home. 

Do gophers hibernate?

Gophers don’t hibernate—they are are active year-round. Since they already live underground and already hoard food, they don’t need to do much to prepare for winter. Their burrow systems provide adequate warmth, room, and storage for cold months.

Gophers often dig deeper holes in the winter to be warmer in the deep soil, but that is the only change they make for winter. Gophers do not even participate in winter rest.


Whitney is a graduate of Georgetown College and a current graduate student at the University of the Cumberlands. She resides in the beautiful state of Kentucky, which she has always appreciated and endeavors to maintain the land's well-being. A lover of animals and the earth, Whitney strives to communicate accurate information that will help readers learn new information, ideas, and become informed stewards of the natural world.

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