Out There

Canadian Wildlife - - CONTENTS -

The North­ern Pocket Go­pher is a dig­ging dervish on the Prairies, and it has the nails and teeth to prove it


Tho­momys talpoides


Na­tive grass­lands, hay­fields and ur­ban parks in south­ern Man­i­toba, Saskatchewan, Al­berta and B.C.


Least con­cern


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.

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