Endangered Species
Mountain-Prairie Region

Northern pocket gopher

Northern pocket gopher

Species Description:  The Douglas County pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides macrotis) is a fossorial (adapted to digging) rodent measuring 225-230 millimeters (8.9-9 inches). It is 1 of 58 northern pocket gopher subspecies, 9 of which are located within Colorado. Pocket gophers have a small, flattened head, short neck, and muscular shoulders and forearms. Fur-lined cheek pouches (pockets), which open externally, distinguish them from other rodents. Adult pocket gophers are solitary, territorial, and have very small home ranges. The northern pocket gopher is short-lived, with a maximum lifespan of approximately 5 years.

Distribution:  The northern pocket gopher has the widest distribution of all pocket gophers--from Manitoba to Colorado, and from the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges eastward to Minnesota. Disjunct populations occur in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Local populations are separated by unsuitable habitat, usually attributed to soil type, and by major geographic barriers. The northern pocket gopher inhabits a variety of habitat types, including deep, tractable soils, heavily compacted soils, and shallow gravels. The Douglas County pocket gopher in particular seems able to tolerate a variety of soil types, utilizing areas not preferred by adjacent northern pocket gopher subspecies. Douglas County pocket gopher life history characteristics (including their strong territoriality and solitary nature) and their discontinuous distributions (based on local habitat characteristics) lead to small population sizes. The historic distribution of the Douglas County pocket gopher is limited to parts of southwestern Arapaho, northern Douglas, and northwestern Elbert Counties in Colorado.

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Last updated: May 7, 2010