Thomomys townsendii
(Townsend's Pocket Gopher)

Order: Rodentia
Order Description:Rodents
Family: Geomyidae
Family Description: Pocket Gophers

The Townsend’s pocket gopher is larger than the other pocket gophers in Idaho: total length is 9 to 13 ¼ inches (225-354 mm), tail length is 2 to 4 ½ inches (50-112 mm). They are variable in color from a darkish brown to a lighter dark buff, but most are grayish brown. Underneath they are slightly lighter in color, and their upper feet, tail and chin are white. Dark patches behind the ears are also present.

This species is found in widely separated populations, one in southeastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho northern Nevada, and northeastern California and they have been found in southcentral Idaho as well. They may have once had a continuous range in Idaho, but perhaps modern land use practices has limited their distribution in some areas. Its also possible that a decrease in precipitationClick word for definition over a long period of time may have changed their distribution.

Townsend’s gopher is found in deep soils of river valleys, in old lake beds, and in irrigated farmland. In Idaho, they prefer moist river valleys and irrigated farmland. This species may be more limited to specific soil conditions than other gopher species, preferring moist and deep soils typical of around lakes and river bottomlands.

They eat roots, tubers, and some surface vegetation. In Idaho, their diet includes roots of saltgrass, roots and stems of grasses, alfalfa, grains, and crops.

Like all pocket gophers they are primarily nocturnalClick word for definition and fossorialClick word for definition. They forage from underground burrows, and they may pull plants down through the soil (from the surface) into their burrow. They sometimes forage above ground. They collect food in cheek pouches and carry it to underground storage areas. They are active throughout the year; pocket gophers do not hibernateClick word for definition. They are primarily solitary, and individuals fight viciously when together. This species is the largest Idaho pocket gopher. Pocket gophers are ecologically important as prey items and in favorably influencing soils, the microtopographyClick word for definition, habitat heterogeneityClick word for definition, enhancing the diversityClick word for definition of plant species, and increasing primary productivityClick word for definition.

Females may produce 2 or more litters of 3 to 10 young per litterClick word for definition each year. GestationClick word for definition lasts approximately 19 days.

Status: Unprotected nongame species

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Information written by Donald Streubel,© 2000
Map image provided by
Stephen Burton,© 2000
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.