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Gophers

The rodent family is expansive, and telling some of these pesky animals apart from each other can get confusing. The gopher is a prime example of an animal in the rodent family that easily gets misidentified. Many myths have arisen about gophers due to the lack of information available and the attention they receive. However, because of their different habits and lifestyles from other rodents, it is important to be educated on the topic. 

Gophers in Texas

One of the most common gophers in Texas is the Texas Pocket Gopher. This critter can be found from the tip of the South Texas Plains all the way to the Pineywoods region of East Texas. These troublesome creatures prefer these regions of Texas because the soil is soft and easier to excavate. Gophers are everywhere in these regions, but they are rarely seen because of their tunneling tendencies. Consequently, the only evidence of their existence is the small mounds of dirt they leave in their wake.

These rodents live most of their lives underground, and as a result, their food is mostly subterranean. Gophers will munch on seeds, roots, and vegetables that grow underground, such as potatoes. On the very rare occasions that they are seen above ground, they are likely in search of food. On their small vacations on human terrain, they eat things like grass or acorns. If a gopher isn’t underground, it’s likely looking for a good snack to munch and soft dirt to call home.

 How are gophers different from other rodents?

One of the things that make gophers unique from other rodents is their tendency to burrow underground. Most other rodents live their lives on our terrain and cause trouble above ground, while gophers do damage subterraneously. This simple difference in lifestyle makes a huge difference in the day-to-day habits of these pests. For example, rats or squirrels cause damage in plain sight, while a gopher’s troublemaking goes on for ages without anyone noticing. And because gophers live underground, their diets are quite different, too. As mentioned above, they mostly eat vegetables that grow underground, while other rodents eat nuts and seeds above ground. 

Another thing that distinguishes gophers from other rodents is their biology.  Rodents have fur-lined pouches that store food, mostly in their mouths. Many rodents have these pouches, but gophers are the only ones to have them on the outside of their bodies. This pouch is where the Texas Pocket Gopher receives its name. One might think that this minuscule change wouldn’t make much of a difference. However, this outer pouch allows for them to store food for future use while they dig underground. When they grow tired from tunneling, they only have to reach into their “pocket” for food rather than scavenge like other rodents. 

Is a gopher a groundhog?

The most common myth pertaining to gophers is that they are the same species as groundhogs. However, there are a few similarities between the two. Both of them tunnel underground, eat similar diets, and cause the same types of damage, while mostly unseen by humans. This practice is the only thing that these two creatures have in common and generally, they differ completely. 

Gophers and groundhogs differ in many ways, the most obvious being their physical bodies. These two pests can look similar, but there is a huge size disparity between the two. Gophers are small and compact, while groundhogs are tall and husky. Also, groundhogs hibernate in the winter, but gophers do not. So, if you have seen a groundhog-like creature during the winter months, you have most likely seen a gopher. 

Are gophers active in the winter?

As mentioned above, gophers are active during the winter months. This small norm is what separates gophers from almost every other species in the rodent family. Most other rodents have to conserve their energy and hibernate in the winter due to a lack of food. However, because of their small fur-lined outer pouch and their eating habits, they can be active throughout winter. These pouches offer food storage that most other rodents do not have because they don’t have a permanent home.

Furthermore, their covert underground food sources do not deplete in the winter months as they do above ground. The deep layers of dirt keep underground roots and seeds alive while their terranean counterparts die from the cold weather. In the winter months, most rodents are suffering in the cold, but gophers are kept full and warm underground. These small but mighty adaptations are what allow gophers to be active and menacing year-round.

What kind of damage can gophers cause?

Most rodents cause damage within the home by chewing through wires, tearing apart furniture, or creating small holes in sheetrock. Gophers, on the other hand, cause external damage to the property. Because of their tunneling nature, most of the damage committed by gophers is to the yard or garden. Their burrows kill grassroots, which then stops grass growth above ground. And their underground excavations allow easy access to any plants or vegetables you might have grown in your garden. In short, your yard or garden will become their dinner plate. 

Though gophers are virtually invisible, it is important to be on high alert for any sign that they are on your property. Gophers are quick, and once they’ve found your yard, you have little time to remove them before serious damage is done. If you have questions or concerns, you can read more and discover how 855Bugs can help. 

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