Thomomys mazama douglasii

Brush Prairie Pocket Gopher

FWS Focus


The Brush Prairie pocket gopher is found in Clark County, Washington, where it is isolated from other subspecies, and facing the same issues as other Mazama pocket gopher subspecies. Adult Mazama pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama) are reddish brown to black above, and the underparts are lead colored and tipped with buffy. Lips, nose, and patches behind the ears are black; the wrists are white. Adults range from 175 to 273 millimeters (mm) (7 to 11 inches (in)) in total length, with tails that range from 45 to 85 mm (2 to 3 in) (Hall 1981). Mazama pocket gophers are morphologically similar to other species of pocket gophers that exploit a subterranean existence. They are stocky and tubular in shape, with short necks, powerful limbs, long claws, and tiny ears and eyes. Short, nearly hairless tails are highly sensitive and probably assist in navigation in tunnels. Pocket gophers tunnel and burrow with teeth and claws. Their “pockets” are external, fur-lined cheeks on either side of the mouth. These pockets are used to transport nesting material and carry plant cuttings to storage compartments. Pocket gophers’ diet includes a wide variety of plant material, including leafy vegetation, succulent roots, shoots, and tubers. Although as consumers of crop plants they are considered agricultural pests, in natural settings they play an ecological role by aerating soils and stimulating plant growth. In prairie ecosystems, pocket gopher activity is important in maintaining species richness and diversity. Pocket gophers rarely surface completely from their burrows, although they do disperse above ground. They are highly asocial and intolerant of other gophers. Each maintains its own burrow system, and occupancy by multiple individuals occurs only for brief periods during mating seasons and prior to weaning young. The mating system is probably polygynous and most likely based on female choice. The adult sex ratio is biased toward females, often as much as 4:1, though Witmer et al. (1996) reported a sex ratio of close to 1:1.

Scientific Name

Thomomys mazama douglasii
Common Name
Brush Prairie pocket gopher
FWS Category

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



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