Gophers, Mating, Reproduction, Babies, and More

The pocket gopher is a small and furry animal that digs through the yards of North and Central America. It has close cousins that are found in the West and Southeast. 

Gophers are known for making their own tunnels where they spend their lives, keep their food, and take care of their young.

They are solitary animals, and for the most part, only one gopher can be found in a tunnel at a time, except for mating season and when mothers take care of their young.

Let’s explore how gophers reproduce and how they make sure that their babies are well fed!

When Is Gopher Mating Season?

The mating season for gophers usually starts in late winter and early spring. They breed once or twice yearly and usually start mating during winter or spring so that the young will be born in normal weather and temperatures, which will improve their chances of survival. 

Food is hard to find during winter, and the temperature is harsh, so keeping a juvenile gopher during this time is not practical. 

How Do Gophers Find A Mate?

Gophers don’t share their burrows with other gophers, but it is not a hindrance to finding a mate. Many gophers live close to each other, allowing them to find a mate easily.

The female will take the male gopher to her tunnel for mating which usually happens during a period of three to four days.

Do Gophers Stay With The Same Partner?

No, pocket gophers don’t stay with the same partner their whole lives. They are, however, not entirely polygamous either. Males practice serial monogamy which means that they will commit to one female for the entirety of the breeding season.

The male will stay a little and cohabit in the female’s burrow system while she is pregnant and taking care of their young. There are instances when the male will help take care of their young before leaving and moving to another female’s tunnel.

Let’s award them for being one of the best dads in the wild!

How Long Are Gophers Pregnant For?

Female gophers are pregnant for 18 to 19 days before giving birth to pups (baby gophers). Pups are born blind and fragile, so they need their parents to nurture them. 

How Many Baby Gophers Are In A Litter?

The litter size can range from 1 to 10, but on average, there can be five to six pups in a litter. 55% to 60% of these pups are females. Their average lifespan is up to 3 years. 

How Fast Do Gophers Reproduce? (How Many Litters Per Year?)

Gophers in the northern part of North America can have 1 litter per year, while those that live in the southern part tend to have 2 litters per year. In irrigated areas with abundant alfalfa fields in California, gophers can have up to 3 litters in a period of 12 months, which means that they can have as many as 15-30 babies in a year!

How Do Gophers Give Birth?

Usually, births occur from March through June, and it happens underground in the gopher’s burrow. When a mother gopher is about to give birth, she will produce sharp squeaks

She will then release liquids, meaning that the womb is ruptured. After several minutes, the first pup in the litter will be born.

Sometimes, they will separate and spread their hind legs and arc their tail as they push the pups out of the womb. The newborn baby is pinkish, with loose and wrinkled skin. The mother will immediately and gently lick the newborn to clean them after birth.

How Do Gopher Parents Take Care Of Their Young?

The pups will stay with their mothers only for a few weeks. The newborn pups are defenseless due to their lack of hair, pockets (the excess skin in their cheeks that they use to transport food), eyesight, and ears. 

During infancy, the mother will nurse and give the baby gophers milk; in two weeks, the pups will begin to develop thin hair growth. In the following weeks, the mother will frequently groom them, which serves the double purpose of being a form of bonding between mother and pups.

After three weeks, the baby gophers will start to crawl. By this time, they can already eat solid foods, and the mother will provide leaves and succulents for them to eat.

What Do Baby Gophers Eat?

During the nurturing stage, baby gophers only drink milk. The weaning period will start when they can begin to consume solid foods. They can eat different plants like lettuce, carrots, and other plants, fruits and vegetables. They can also consume seeds, roots, and tubers of plants.

Inground growing foods such as cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts are preferable food for a growing gopher pup.

When do Juvenile Gophers Leave Their Mom?

At around 6 weeks, when the pups learn to grind and chatter their teeth they will be sent out of the burrow by their mother. 

At this point, they have fully developed their fur-lined cheek pockets or pouches that they use to transfer food from one place to another.

It’s also at this point that they are mature enough to start their own tunnel system and live in solitude. The now-adult gophers can start reproducing at the age of 1.

Characteristics of Adult Gophers

Gophers have brown fur that resembles the dirt in their tunnels. The word “pocket” in their name comes from their huge cheek pouches, which are their most distinguishing physical characteristics. It’s with these pouches that gophers are able to stuff impressive amounts of food into their mouths, to transport it to their burrows for later consumption.

Gophers have small eyes and hairy tails, which allow them to sense their way around the tunnel when they walk backward. The pocket gopher’s teeth are constantly growing, similar to other rodents.

How Do You Tell Male And Female Gophers Apart?

Males tend to be larger and heavier than females; some males can weigh up to two times as much as a female. Another difference is that the upper incisors of the male are a bit wider than the female’s.

A more practical way we can identify the male from the female gopher is by the presence of its testicles. If it is not obvious, we can observe the gopher closely to see if they have mammae (mammary gland, where they secrete milk) to determine if they are female. 

The mammae will be very small if the female gopher is still young and hasn’t given birth yet. In this case, it can be necessary to gently blow their fur to expose the mammae.

What Should I Do If I Find A Baby Gopher?

If you find a baby gopher that seems abandoned, it is important not to touch it. You can observe first if the baby gopher is sick or not. If it is sick, contact wildlife rehabilitators near you.

If it is not sick, wait for some time to see if the mother will return. The mother might be out there to look for the young, but if it notices you there, it will not approach the baby gopher. 

So try to stay some distance away from it, where you can still observe it and simultaneously be completely out of sight. If some time passes and the mother still doesn’t return, call a local wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian near you.

Can You Keep A Baby Gopher As A Pet?

Definitely not. Many people believe that these medium-sized burrowers would make excellent pets despite their reputation as pests, but this is not the case.

You can only take care of one and nurse it back to health if you have a special license as a wildlife rehabilitator

Gopher pet ownership, on the other hand, is a difficult task. Only a legal exotic pet supplier can provide you with a domesticated gopher as a pet, and they are very hard to find.

If you ever get a hold of one, the information about having a pet gopher on the internet is very scarce which means that you won’t get enough help and advice as you raise the gopher.

It is important to remember that you need to get a license from your state if you want to care for injured animals and release them back into the wild.

The good news is that a Wildlife Rehabilitator License is available in nearly every state. Instead of keeping the gopher as a pet, the licensee’s goal is to help return the gopher to the wild. 

So if you decide to learn more about gophers and start a wildlife rehabilitator career, you are always welcome to get one.

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