Gophers are often referred to as pocket gophers due to the presence of fur lined pouches found on either side of their mouth. The gopher has the ability to turn these pockets inside out and uses them to carry food. Their small eyes and ears leave them with extremely poor sight and sound attributes and heavy dependence on their sense of touch. The gopher’s whiskers function as a part of this sense of touch; they are very sensitive and aid them in their subterranean travels. The gophers bald tail also helps the gopher in its navigation when it moves in reverse. The tail also has the secondary function of helping it to regulate its body temperature.
Gophers range in size from about 5 to 14 inches long with males typically larger than females. Gopher fur is very soft, fine, and can be found in a wide range of colors from black to brown to very nearly white. The wide range in coloration and size is attributed to the gopher’s adaptation to its immediate surroundings and its lack of desire to leave them – The gopher does not travel and tends to live a solitary life.
The United States is home to 13 species of gopher that hail from three genera (the locations where these particular gophers live can be found on our Gopher Geography page. The sketches below display and point out the differences between these three pocket gopher genera.