Pocket gophers, commonly referred to as gophers, are burrowing rodents of the family Geomyidae. There are approximately 35 species of gopher living in Central and North America. They are commonly known for their extensive tunneling activities. Gophers are endemic to North and Central America.
The name “pocket gopher” on its own may be used to refer to any of a number of genera within the family. These are the “true” gophers; however there are severalground squirrels in the distantly related family Sciuridae that are often mistakenly called gophers as well.
Gophers weigh around 0.5 pounds (230 g), and are about 6–8 inches (150–200 mm) long in body length, with a tail 1–2 inches (25–51 mm) long. A few species reach weights approaching 1 kg (2.2 lb). Within any species, the males are larger than the females and can be nearly double their weight.
Their lifespan is normally one to three years assuming no diseases or predation. The maximum life span for the pocket gopher is approximately five years. Some gophers, such as those in the genus Geomys, have lifespans that have been documented as up to seven years in the wild.
Most gophers have brown fur that often closely matches the color of the soil in which they live. Their most characteristic features are their large cheek pouches, from which the word “pocket” in their name derives. These pouches are fur-lined, and can be turned inside out. They extend from the side of the mouth well back onto the shoulders. They have small eyes and a short, hairy tail, which they use to feel around tunnels when they walk backwards.