The Northern Pocket Gopher is a digging dervish on the Prairies, and it has the nails and teeth to prove it
Native grasslands, hayfields and urban parks in southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.
WHY SO SPECIAL
Phenomenal tunnelling ability and its amazing teeth and claws
Roughly the size of a stocky chipmunk, the rarely seen pocket gopher uses its large front teeth and long, curved claws powered by strong muscular forelegs to dig, diggity, dig. This vegetarian gopher excavates an extensive network of subterranean tunnels in search of roots, corms and tubers and then pushes the surplus soil to the surface, resulting in clusters of small earthen mounds, up to a metre in diameter and some half a metre tall. In a five-month study, one pocket gopher dug 146 metres of tunnels and piled up 161 mounds — as many as 14 in a single day. To offset the continual wear on its powerful digging tools, a pocket gopher’s front claws may grow 14 centimetres in a year, and its chisel-shaped front teeth a remarkable 44 centimetres.