Are Pocket Gophers Dangerous? (What Can They Do to You?)

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Pocket gophers are some of nature’s most unassuming animals, always looking sweet and innocent whenever they poke their heads out of the hole. But no matter how meek they appear, they are still wild animals and should be treated as such.

While they might not seem as dangerous as wolves and mountain lions, gophers can hurt you if you are not careful, sometimes in ways that aren’t immediately obvious. That is why you should always take the time to understand these small animals and what they are capable of.

Join us in Floofmania as we talk about how dangerous a pocket gopher is.

Are Pocket Gophers Dangerous to Humans?

Pocket gophers are not usually considered dangerous to humans but are not entirely harmless, either. These digging animals are not naturally aggressive and usually avoid encounters with humans, making attacks few and far between.

When attacks occur, these are usually nothing more than a few scratches and bites, nothing that some first aid won’t fix. 

The real danger, however, doesn’t come from direct attacks but from what gophers contribute indirectly. They have been known to carry harmful diseases, and like other digging animals, gophers are infamous for damaging gardens, farms, and even houses by creating burrows.

Should I Be Afraid Of Gophers?

Not at all. Pocket gophers aren’t big or scary; they aren’t animals that can seriously injure you. But being scared and being cautious are two different things. Just because you shouldn’t fear them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful when encountering one of these little guys. 

There are risks when meeting wild animals, especially if you throw caution to the wind and treat them like pets. Gophers attack people who get too close, especially if they feel startled or cornered. Being scratched or bitten by one of these little fellas is not a fun experience even if it isn’t life-threatening. 

None of this is even mentioning infectious diseases they might carry which are the real danger. But while these are real risks, you can control them by taking the right precautions.

When approaching one of these animals, you should always do so slowly and carefully. Animals don’t react well to sudden movement so avoid that as much as possible. Let them know you are coming but show that you aren’t a threat.

Are Pocket Gophers Scared Of People?

No matter how scared you might be, remember that pocket gophers are likely more afraid of you than you are of them. Being careful around gophers isn’t just for your sake but also theirs. 

They are naturally timid animals and aren’t keen on being above ground. They will often retreat when seeing animals bigger than them. 

The last thing you want is to scare them. Fear and confusion are the most common reasons for pocket gophers attacking. In many cases, these little fellas are feeling cornered and just want to escape.

Fact: The average pocket gopher is about a foot long and weighs 0.30-0.60 pounds. That's one-sixth the size of the average human and less than a hundredth of our weight. No wonder the pocket gophers are intimidated by us!  

Do Pocket Gophers Attack Humans, Pets, or Livestock?

Pocket gophers aren’t predators or violent animals, so attacking people and other animals is unusual. But unusual doesn’t mean impossible and has happened from time to time.

Gophers will normally avoid humans but can be pushed to attack in self-defense. When a human is getting too close to their territory, gophers will often resort to biting or attacking to try and get them to leave. 

The same is true for pets and livestock, as birds, cats, and dogs are known to hunt gophers, so seeing one of their natural enemies running around might frighten a gopher and cause them to run away or try to attack them. 

Other times, pocket gophers have been known to injure animals indirectly through their burrows. Gophers digging underground weaken the soil, making it lose and more likely to crumble. When large animals step over it, the tunnels could collapse and injure them.

Will A Pocket Gopher Only Bite When Cornered?

Pocket gophers are not naturally aggressive animals, so they won’t go out looking for trouble. They also aren’t meat eaters, meaning they won’t attack anyone in order to get a meal, leaving only a handful of reasons for attacking:

  • Pocket gophers are acting in self-defense.
  • The pocket gophers are trying to protect their territories.
  • They might be carrying diseases that make them more aggressive.

The most common reason for acting this way is that the little animals feel cornered. Pocket gophers are solitary animals who don’t take kindly to strangers. When those strangers are not only larger than them but also getting very close, it can cause these animals to panic and attack out of sheer terror. 

While that’s the most common reason, it is far from the only one. Sometimes, people might be getting too close to pocket gophers’ burrows. 

Pocket gophers are highly territorial animals; what’s more, they are one of the few animals that make their homes from scratch. For that reason, they don’t take kindly on other animals trying to get close to their burrows.

Lastly, pocket gophers can be carriers of diseases like rabies and serious illnesses that affect an animal’s behavior. Animals with rabies are noticeably more aggressive and don’t respond to attempts to calm them down. 

That makes them much more likely to bite someone, sometimes even without prompting. Many attacks like this have happened, and are simply the gophers unable to control themselves.

If you or your pet gets bitten or scratched by a pocket gopher that you suspect to have rabies, be sure to seek medical attention straight away!

Are Pocket Gophers Safe To Touch?

It isn’t recommended that you try touching pocket gophers, especially if they aren’t used to being around you. Not only could they bite you, but they might be carrying diseases. While gophers aren’t poisonous or anything, most experts advise against touching them under most circumstances.

From their perspective, it’s as if a giant is reaching out to try and grab them! Animals living in the wild might mistake what you’re doing for a predator trying to snatch them up! This is a common cause for pocket gophers to panic and attack.

There have been some situations where someone has managed to befriend a pocket gopher and touch it without fear, but don’t think that this is something anyone can do. It takes a long time for pocket gophers to trust someone enough to not attack or run away from them! Even then, it doesn’t fully take away the risk of diseases from these little guys.

What Happens If You Get Bitten By A Gopher?

The short answer is nothing good. Gophers have notoriously powerful teeth, which they use to chew through roots and other hard plant matter and to help dig through the ground. They can use these teeth to fight off intruders and predators when danger is close.

Gophers’ teeth can easily penetrate people’s skin and cause some bleeding (though not enough to be life-threatening.) After biting, the marks pocket gophers leave behind tend to swell and have a bruised, reddish appearance. 

While these are normally not serious, you should check them immediately. Even a small wound can put you at risk of infection if not treated properly. 

More importantly, if the pocket gopher has rabies, it can transmit it by biting you. If you suspect the injury is more serious, though, you should have it checked by a doctor. They made need to provide you with additional treatment and medication

Basic first aid should be enough to treat animal bites if there is nothing else there. It should be enough to clean the wound with water and soap and then disinfect and bandage it.

Fact: Although very small, gophers' teeth are incredibly powerful. While humans have a bite force of about 160 PSI, pocket gophers have one of 18,000! That is more than a hundred times more powerful!

Pocket Gophers Can Carry Contagious Diseases.

People think getting bitten is the worst that can happen when it comes to the dangers of pocket gophers. While that’s not a fun experience, the bite itself is only a minor issue. The real trouble comes from the diseases our little friends can carry. 

Like all animals, pocket gophers have the potential to carry harmful pathogens, some of which can be transmitted to humans. This is a big reason why health experts strongly discourage people from approaching wild animals.

The most well-known disease carried by pocket gophers is rabies, but they can also include other diseases.

Name of DiseaseCause of InfectionSymptoms and Effects of the Disease
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM)Exposure to the infected animal’s droppings, urine, saliva, and nesting materials.Symptoms of LCM include fever, headaches, vomiting and nausea, sore throat, and pain across your body, coupled with general weakness.
LeptospirosisLeptospirosis is a bacterial-based disease commonly spread through contact with the infected animal’s urine.Symptoms of Leptospirosis include fever, pain access the muscles and body, red eyes, rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice.
HantavirusHantavirus is caused by contact with the urine, droppings, and other fluids of the infected gopher.Symptoms of Hantavirus include fever, shortness of breath, muscle pain, dizziness, gastrointestinal complications, and shortness of breath. In some serious cases, the lungs might fill with fluid.
Death is also possible as the disease has a mortality rate of 38%.
RabiesThis disease is normally spread through the bite of the infected animal, which transmits the virus to the patient’s body.Symptoms of rabies include fever, weakness, insomnia, anxiety and confusion, paralysis, hallucinations, hypersalivation, agitation, and hydrophobic.
Fact: Gophers have also been known to carry the bubonic plague. This disease is caused by infected fleas transmitting the disease to the gopher, who in turn spreads it to humans. Thankfully, this is incredibly rare, and there are few cases of the plague in humans, much less from pocket gophers.

Are Pocket Gophers Friendly to Humans?

Pocket gophers are not what you’d call friendly animals. While they are not aggressive to humans and won’t normally attack them, that is far from being friendly. If anything, they are opposed to being around humans. Our little friends are solitary animals who aren’t sociable even to their species, much fewer humans.

A better word to describe them is solitary. If you leave them alone, they won’t bother you, but that understanding does not make them friendly. 

There are a few cases of pocket gophers becoming friends with humans and even allowing humans to pet and play with them, but these are the exception rather than the norm. In these situations, it is specific pocket gophers learning to trust certain humans. These cases are rare and take years to develop, so it’s not something you will see every day.

Gophers Can Damage Your Garden and Even Your House

While pocket gophers aren’t aggressive, they can still be destructive. Many farmers and property owners can tell you that these rodents can be a pest, not because of their biting and scratching but the property damage they cause. 

It is difficult to imagine something as small as gophers causing so much destruction, but they are responsible for damages in thousands of households yearly. Some state governments even designate pocket gophers as a nuisance species and allow property owners to hunt them if they are on their property. 

Pocket Gophers Will Destroy Your Garden

The biggest cause of this destruction is because of pocket gopher’s digging. While fairly small, these little guys are almost constantly digging. With so much digging, they are bound to damage or break something. 

The most common victim of this is gardens and crops. As gophers burrow, they can uproot and eat plant life that gets in their way with their powerful teeth and claws. 

When the roots of plants are damaged, it can cause them to shrivel up and wilt, assuming they don’t eat it too. Pocket gophers are known to eat roots and plant life, so they could end up destroying your garden right under your nose!

These holes are also a safety hazard, leaving the ground loose and vulnerable to caving in. Many unfortunate animals and people hurt themselves when they stepped over these areas.

Pocket Gophers Can Damage Your Home’s Structure

Aside from living things, pocket gophers can even break underground infrastructure like pipes and wires! The claws and teeth of these little fellas are strong enough to bite through materials like rubber and plastic, allowing them to chew through the protective coverings of pipes and wires.

When that happens, it can affect your access to water and electricity as it can temporarily sever your connection. It’s no wonder why so many people consider pocket gophers pests!

In some serious cases, if pocket gophers dig deep enough, they can even damage the foundation of your house which can cost thousands of dollars to repair!

Fact: Under the right conditions, a pocket gopher's burrow can cover an area between 200 to 2,000 square feet. That is a large area they can cause damage in!

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!

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