plains pocket gopher

(Geomys bursarius)

Conservation Status
plains pocket gopher
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Plains pocket gopher is a medium-sized rodent well adapted for digging.

The body of an adult is compact and 9½ to 12 in length, including the tail. It appears heaviest toward the head, tapering gradually to the tail. Males are slightly larger than females.

The head is broad and flat with a short shout. The bony ridge forming the lower border of the eye socket is widely flared. The eyes are small. The ears are short and hairless. The cheeks are external, fur-lined pouches or “pockets”, which gives this species its common name. They extend backward to the shoulders and are used for carrying food. The two upper incisors are large, protruding, and orange. There are two longitudinal grooves on the front of each upper incisor. The incisors are used for digging. The lips close behind the upper and lower incisors to keep dirt out of the mouth while digging.

The fur covering most of the body is is brown to black, shiny, and short. The hairs move easily in either direction, permitting forward and backward movement in the tunnel. The fur on the top of the feet is whitish. The fur on the underside is dull and usually paler.

The forelimbs are short and strong and have long, heavy claws. The tail is 2 to 4½ long, brown, and tapered. It has little hair and is used as a sensory organ. The tip of the tail is white.




Total length: 9½ to 12

Tail: 2 to 4½




The mound is crescent-, bean-, or kidney-shaped. The texture is fine and there are no large clods of dirt. The hole is off-center and is sealed by a visible dirt plug. The dirt plug is at an angle. Separate feed hole are also made. They are identified by the lack of a dirt mound and a circular band of clipped vegetation within one body length of the hole.


Similar Species


Eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) mound is cone-shaped, not kidney shaped. The texture of the dirt in the mound is coarser, with clods of dirt. There is no visible dirt plug. There are usually visible traces of shallow tunnels near the mound.

Northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides) is smaller, 6½ to 10½ in total length. The forelimbs are smaller. The front claws are lighter. The fur is not shiny. There is only one indistinct groove near the inner border of each upper incisor. In Minnesota it has been found only in Kittson and Marshall Counties.

Woodchuck (Marmota monax) borrow is has a mound of dirt next to an exposed, 5¼ to 6¼ wide hole.


Formerly tallgrass and midgrass prairie regions and associated open woodlands




This is a solitary rodent that lives in loose colonies. It is active both day and night. It creates an extensive underground tunnel system. Most tunnels are dug in the spring and fall. The main tunnel and birthing tunnel are below the frost line. Lateral tunnels are shallower. Most digging takes place at night and in twilight. Most tunneling is done in search of food. The animal rarely leaves its tunnel except to eject dirt, breed, or forage. It is territorial but has a small territory. It does not hibernate.




Less than 5 years


Life Cycle


Adults breed in early spring. Gestation is about four to seven weeks. A litter of one to three offspring is born between March and May. The young are evicted from the burrow by late summer. Lifespan is usually less than five years.




Fleshy, underground roots, tubers, and bulbs; succulent stems of young plants, often pulled into the burrow from below by the roots; and small fruits.


Distribution Map



4, 7, 24, 29, 30, 76.

Mississippi Valley pocket gopher (G. b. bursarius) is found in all but the northeastern counties.

The range of plains pocket gopher (G. b. majusculus) extends into Minnesota only in the southern half of the southern border counties.




Common. Agricultural and lawn pest.

  Class Mammalia (mammals)  
  Subclass Theria  
  Infraclass Eutheria (placental mammals)  
  Magnorder Boreoeutheria  
  Superorder Euarchontoglires (primates, rodents, and allies)  
  Order Rodentiia (rodents)  
  Suborder Castorimorpha (beavers, pocket gophers, and allies)  
  Infraorder Geomorpha  
  Superfamily Geomyoidea  


Geomyidae (pocket gophers)  
  Subfamily Geomyinae  
  Tribe Geomyini (eastern pocket gophers)  


Geomys (eastern pocket gophers)  

Subordinate Taxa


Illinois Plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius illinoensis)

Mississippi Valley pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius bursarius)

Missouri pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius missouriensis)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius industrius)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius major)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius majusculus)

plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius ozarkensis)

Wisconsin pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius wisconsinensis)






Common Names


plains pocket gopher








Visitor Photos

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Kelly Blackledge

    plains pocket gopher      

Bill Reynolds


Not often do you find this gopher milling around above ground.

    plains pocket gopher   plains pocket gopher  
    plains pocket gopher   plains pocket gopher  
    plains pocket gopher   plains pocket gopher  



  Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius)
  Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius)  
  Plains Pocket Gopher Geomys bursarius

Published on Sep 30, 2013

Georgia compares the Plains Pocket Gopher with Northern Pocket Gopher.




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Other Videos
  A plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius major) at the WildCare Foundation.
Video Ark

Feb 2, 2021

Featured species: A plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius major) at the WildCare Foundation.
To license this video, click here:
Find out why this video has no sound:

The National Geographic Photo Ark, led by photographer Joel Sartore, is a multiyear effort to document every species living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, inspire action through education, and help save wildlife by supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts.

Explore the thousands of photos and videos in the Ark to find out more about wildlife around the world and the threats they face in the wild:

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Facebook: @sartorephoto




Visitor Sightings

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  Kelly Blackledge

Location: Tamarac NWR, Becker County

plains pocket gopher

  Bill Reynolds

Location: Pennington Co Minnesota.

Not often do you find this gopher milling around above ground.

plains pocket gopher


Afton State Park

Agassiz Dunes SNA (MN DNR)

Anna Gronseth Prairie

Antelope Valley SNA

Belgium Prairie

Big Stone Lake State Park

Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Blazing Star Prairie

Blazing Star Prairie Addition Preserve, South Unit

Blue Mounds State Park

Boot Lake SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Butternut Valley Prairie SNA

Camden State Park

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Cedar Mountain SNA

Cedar Rock SNA

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chippewa Prairie

Compass Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Crow Wing State Park

Des Moines River SNA

Dry Sand WMA

Edward Velishek Memorial WMA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park

Foxhome Prairie

Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes Preserve

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Grey Cloud Dunes SNA

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Helen Allison Savanna SNA

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Kellogg Weaver Unit

Kettledrummer Prairie

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Louise State Park

Lake Maria State Park

Leif Mountain

Lester Lake SNA

Lost Valley Prairie SNA

Malmberg Prairie SNA

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

McKnight Prairie

Minneopa State Park

Minnesota Valley NWR, Rapids Lake Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Wilkie Unit

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, South Unit

Myre-Big Island State Park

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Hoffman Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Rengstorf Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Spieker Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Old Mill State Park

Ordway Prairie

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Osmundson Prairie SNA

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Crookston Prairie Unit

Pilot Knob

Pin Oak Prairie SNA

Plover Prairie, East Unit

Prairie Coteau SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Rice Lake Savanna SNA

Rice Lake State Park

Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott SNA

Ripley Esker SNA

River Terrace Prairie SNA

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Rockville County Park

Roscoe Prairie SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA

Sand Prairie Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Schaefer Prairie

Sedan Brook SNA

Seven Sisters Prairie

Seven Springs WMA

Sheepberry Fen

Shooting Star Prairie SNA

Staffanson Prairie

Sunfish Lake Park

Tamarack Nature Center

Thorson Prairie WMA

Tiedemann WMA

Town Hall Prairie

Tribute WMA

Twin Lakes SNA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Twin Valley Prairie SNA

Twin Valley WMA: North Unit

Tympanuchus Prairie

Uncas Dunes SNA

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Valley View Park, Oak Park Heights

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Wild Indigo SNA

Wild River State Park

William O’Brien State Park

Woodbury WMA

Woodland Trails Regional Park

Yellow Bank Hills SNA

Zimmerman Prairie





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