If you're outside this summer and run across this little guy in your backyard, you might just be a little taken aback.  It's a vicious-looking little creature, but in the big scheme of things, it's really quite important to your backyard and our ecosystem. It's our feisty little Pocket Gopher.

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According to Minnesota Fish & Wildlife, there are two gopher species in Minnesota. The Plains Pocket Gopher and the Northern Pocket Gopher.

Pocket Gophers are more important to our ecosystem than we realize; and although they appear quite frightening, they need all of those scary body tools to complete their very important jobs. They are called pocket gophers because their cheeks are used to hold lots of food when foraging. They have long claws on their front feet for digging, and they are able to close their lips behind their long incisor teeth so they can loosen up soil with their teeth without getting dirt in their mouths.


Pocket Gophers are soil movers, which is really important for our soil, as it introduces air to the soil. They might make tunnels in places that you don't appreciate, but by doing so their tunnels provide habitat for other animals like ground squirrels, snakes, and even owls! They typically only live about 3 years.

Photo courtesy of Paul Frese, Iowa DNR
Photo courtesy of Paul Frese, Iowa DNR


The tunnels they create also are great ways of capturing rain and snow, which helps reduce erosion. They are also a tasty meal for lots of species like hawks, owls, badgers, and others.


People get moles and pocket gophers mixed up because they are both tunneling animals. However, the difference is that mole tunnels leave ridges on the ground surface, but pocket gophers do not.

Pocket gophers have no interest in you, and considering they spend their whole short life trying to escape from predators, maybe give them a break on the human side.


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