At first glance, it might seem like gophers aren’t active animals. We don’t see them often, save for occasional glimpses when they leave their holes. But just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t busy doing their own thing.
Pocket gophers spend most of their active time underground, and if one looks at the damage they can do to your property, it should tell you enough; these animals aren’t lazy.
They follow a different schedule and set of activities than us. More importantly, they are careful only to go out when the conditions are right to avoid getting into trouble. Anything from the weather, time of day, or season can affect them.
They will only venture out of their burrows when conditions are suitable, so if you want to catch a glimpse, time your observations right.
But what are the best conditions, and what might affect a pocket gopher’s active hours?
Are Gophers Nocturnal Or Diurnal?
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Gophers are both nocturnal and diurnal because they can be active both during the day and the night. They can be active multiple times daily and have numerous sleep cycles day and night.
When they sleep depends less on the time of day and more on the temperature, weather, and seasons. However, they are generally more active at night when they can move under the cover of darkness. Here their predators will have a hard time seeing them without light.
What Time of Day Are Gophers The Most Active?
Gophers are crepuscular animals, which means their peak activity is at twilight or dusk, but that doesn’t mean they are never active during the day.
A study has determined that gophers are most active during two periods, either at night from 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM or in the afternoon from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. In these intervals, pocket gophers are more likely to leave their burrows in search of food.
On average, a gopher spends about 7 to 9 hours per day outside their burrow, between several daily trips.
The study suggests that gophers go out around these times because of the temperature affecting their tunnels.
When Do Gophers Come Out Of Their Tunnels?
Gophers make several trips out of their tunnels daily, usually at three points; one in the morning, another early in the afternoon, and again throughout the night. Of these trips, the morning ones are the shortest while the afternoon and night trips are the longest.
Gophers possibly do this based on the temperature of their homes. During the morning, the soil tends to be moist and cool from the night which is more comfortable for the pocket gophers. They are less likely to leave their burrows when they can rest comfortably underground.
Gophers go out at night since they are better adapted to living in dark environments. Since they spend most of their time underground, gophers have poor eyesight, which means they are less affected by poor visibility at night.
While they might nearly be blind, at least their predators will have a hard time seeing too.
Do Gophers Have Different Activities During The Night or Day?
Yes, although active during both day and night, their activity during those times is different. Pocket gophers are fossorial, meaning they spend most of their life underground, especially during the day.
Most of the time, gophers will spend the day digging or foraging from the safety of their tunnels. Pocket gophers have learned to gather what they need without leaving their homes. They can eat plant roots or pull plants down from the surface. So if you ever notice things from your garden disappearing, it might be a gopher.
Pocket gophers will only go out when necessary, such as if their tunnels become too inhospitable. Even when they go out, their day trips are much shorter than at night when they can be out for the entire night.
The reason is that gophers have many natural predators, such as birds and snakes, that can easily snatch them up.
When the sun sets, these little rodents might get a bit bolder. Darkness means protection since they will be harder to spot, and some of their predators might be asleep.
For gophers, it is an opportunity to go out and forage in relative safety. They can gather food and whatever they need above ground.
When Do Gophers Go To Sleep and When Do They Wake Up?
Pocket gophers don’t follow the same sleep cycle as humans. We have one eight-hour long sleep cycle at night and remain awake for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, these rodents have two shorter sleep cycles spaced several hours apart.
The first sleep cycle is from the early morning to noon, and this is in between a pocket gopher returning to its burrow from its evening foraging, and it leaving in the afternoon. This sleep cycle can be rather long and can last up to seven hours.
Meanwhile, the second major sleep cycle is in the late afternoon. By this point, the temperature drops enough to make staying inside a pocket gopher burrows more comfortable.
Since gophers are shy animals, they don’t like being out longer than they need to, so they return to their den and rest before heading out at night when it’s safer. This sleep cycle is a bit shorter and lasts about four hours.
Do Pocket Gophers Come Out In All Sorts of Weather?
Despite their small size, pocket gophers are surprisingly resilient and can come out in various weather and even some extreme conditions.
Pocket Gophers Are Inactive During Sunny Weather
Gophers are highly sensitive to the weather, particularly heat so they are less active in higher temperatures.
These little guys are known to overheat if the weather gets too hot so there is a noticeable decrease in mound construction during hotter days among pocket gophers. Instead, these animals are more likely to just find a shady spot and rest there.
Pocket Gophers in Cloudy Weather
Cloudy days are good for gophers because they can mitigate some of the problems during the day and allow pocket gophers to stay out for longer periods.
The clouds make the temperature cooler which makes it easier for gophers to move around. At the same time, since it is less bright, it is more suited for pocket gophers’ eyes.
Pocket Gophers in the Rain
Generally, you can expect pocket gophers to be more active during rainy weather; however, they probably won’t head to the surface.
Rain helps the gophers dig since it softens up the soil, and that means it’s easier for them to build their burrow, which they might focus on during this time.
However, while rain can be good, too much water can be a problem.
Pocket Gophers in Stormy Weather
When it comes to thunderstorms, hurricanes, or heavy rains, all of these can pose problems for pocket gophers. Since they live underground, too much rain can cause flooding that forces them to leave their burrow temporarily which leaves them exposed.
Depending on where they live, thunderstorms can be disastrous for a pocket gopher’s home. If the soil gets too soft, it can create a mudslide that caves in their tunnels.
Pocket Gophers and Forest Fires
Surprisingly, pocket gophers not only survive forest fires but thrive in these conditions. When forest fires hit, pocket gophers tend to hunker down in their burrows and wait where the fire can’t reach them.
Once the fires die down, most animals tend to leave in search of greener pastures, both literally and figuratively. Pocket gophers are a bit more resourceful, and make the most of the situation.
While dead trees won’t feed most animals, these clever rodents can still sustain themselves on the roots of dead plants. With fewer competitors, they can also get more food on the surface.
But the most remarkable thing is that they can restore the place after a fire. Their burrows are the perfect place for seed dispersal, which can help the forest grow once again.
Pocket Gophers and Earthquakes
Earthquakes are another kind of natural disaster that can adversely affect pocket gophers, especially since they live underground.
Gophers take great care to make their tunnels as secure as possible, but they can shake their burrows loose when earthquakes hit and cause a cave-in.
How Do Gophers’ Behavior Change Throughout The Seasons?
Pocket Gophers In Spring
Spring is one of the most active times for pocket gophers as it offers the most opportunities. The snow melts during this time, making the soil moist and soft, perfect for these small rodents to get back to work.
This is the perfect opportunity for gophers to begin expanding their burrows. Research says that gophers can dig as many as 200 mounds in their territory during spring.
Summer and spring are considered the breeding period for gophers, as this is when resources are most plentiful. With so many plants in bloom, pocket gophers also take advantage of this time to shift their diet.
From roots and underground crops, they will consume more food from the surface, such as leaves and branches.
Pocket Gophers in Summer
Gophers are an important part of the year for gophers due to the mating season They will be spending more time in preparation for starting a family. That means they might venture out in order to gather food for their mates.
Unfortunately, greens might not be as available as in spring so they will need to do more looking. Pocket gophers still go for roots and stems in summer so they will spend time above ground searching for these foods.
Underground, the soil can get quite humid, especially in the upper layers directly exposed to the sun. That means that their burrow-digging activity declines as it is too hot for gophers to work unless they dig deeper into the ground.
Pocket Gophers in Fall
Fall is another period of heavy activity for pocket gophers. First, the temperature is dropping, making digging and foraging more comfortable without the heat.
During this time, more digging takes place than in summer as they prepare for the winter, where their regular activity might not be possible. They need to make sure everything gets done before it’s too late.
Do Pocket Gophers Hibernate In Winter?
No, gophers do not hibernate and remain active well into the winter, though there will be a shift in their activities. Gophers are less likely to venture out of their holes during this time. With less food available on the surface, our furry friends have less reason to go above ground and will instead try their luck by digging.
A gopher’s diet shifts from vegetables and fruits on the ground to roots and other plant life buried underground. Thanks to the gopher’s powerful claws, they can continue digging and searching even after the soil hardens.
Homeowners should be careful because this is when gophers can do the most damage to your property. Since pocket gophers spend more time digging, they are more likely to hit something like pipes, or electrical wires, or even dig under your house’s foundation.
Author: Quade Ong
Hello there, my name is Quade. I have been a writer for three years but an animal lover for over two decades. I grew up in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, which has given me the blessing of seeing all sorts of beautiful animals. Now I strive to learn not just about the animals I am from, but those all over the world!