How Gophers Move Around (Can They Climb, Jump, Swim, and Run?)

Sharing is caring!

Published on October 9, 2023
Last Updated on October 11, 2023

Gophers are small, furry animals found in North and Central America. They live in the woodlands and grass prairies of coastal and mountainous regions. 

They are fossorial rodents that are known for their excessive underground digging and tunneling. However, can gophers also perform other locomotor activities such as climbing and jumping? Let’s explore how these mysterious pocket gophers move around!

Can Gophers Run?

Yes, gophers can run. Gophers use their four limbs to run as fast as they can, especially when they are on the surface. They will use their forepaws to move efficiently and their hind legs will accelerate their movements as they run. 

Gophers’ running movement is very similar to hamsters and other rodents. Although similar in movement, their running speed isn’t quite the same. While hamsters can run 4 miles per hour (6 kph), gophers are quite a bit slower. This makes sense because they’re mostly made for living underground in tunnels.

Do Gophers Run Above Ground?

The chances of gophers running on the surface are very slim. They spend most of their time underground, in their burrows. The only moment they will surface is when they go out to look for more food. In most cases, they’ll even dig for food underground too.

Being out in the open makes gophers feel threatened, so they don’t usually want to spend much there. But when they need to be above the ground, they will definitely run to hurry back to their tunnels as fast as they can!

How Far Do Gophers Travel Above Ground?

Gophers cannot travel that far from their burrow. Mostly, they can be seen gazing from their entrances and then diving back into their tunnels. 

One of the rare moments that they can be seen outside is when they are pushing the dirt out of their tunnels. They go to the surface for a few inches and then hurry back in. 

This is the same when they try to get plants and seeds on the surface. They can forage to find food for a few feet, but will then proceed to hurry back into their tunnels as soon as possible.

Can Gophers Run Backwards?

Something interesting about gophers is that they can run backward in their tunnels, and as fast as they can run forward. Their flexible and furry tails help them feel what’s behind them. It functions as a sort of sensory mechanism.

Gophers will feel and tap the tunnel walls with their highly sensitive tails and figure out which way to go as they run backward.

This is useful, because it’s not that easy to turn around in a narrow underground tunnel!

Can Gophers Climb Trees, Fences, or Other Obstacles?

Gophers can climb low fences and other obstacles. They like to spend most of their time underground so seeing them climb is rare to witness.

It’s also possible for gophers to climb low trees and shrubs, but they’ll quickly hurry back to their burrows to eat or store away the collected food. 

Can Gophers Climb Into Raised Beds?

Gophers cannot climb a well-built raised bed, and they won’t be able to access it from their tunnels either, provided that the raised bed has an enclosed bottom. 

A raised bed is a great way of improving your garden. It will not only prevent gophers from reaching your plants but also other vermin.

Chicken wire is used for the base of raised beds. It is also used on the top of the bed to make a layer of cover that prevents gophers from entering.

However, gophers can easily breach the raised bed as soon as the chicken wire starts to rust. It is highly recommended to use stainless steel or use gopher wire instead. 

How High Can Gophers Climb?

Gophers cannot climb obstacles higher than one foot. They don’t usually go to the surface. But when they decide to climb a tree, it is usually the low branches or shrubs. 

The gopher’s small legs are only made for digging, so climbing is not their cup of tea. In addition, their clawed paws are not very helpful in climbing high obstacles because they cannot properly grip onto surfaces.

Can Gophers Jump?

Yes, gophers can jump but do not expect it to be that high. They can leap away from predators or back down into their holes when returning to their tunnels. Although, there is not much evidence of them hopping around or jumping.

Seeing a gopher jump is so rare that nobody knows precisely how high they can jump. In fact, there are more claims that they tiptoe and stretch their arms to get food than there are for their jumping abilities.

Can Gophers Swim?

Yes, gophers can swim. The southern pocket gophers are good swimmers because they live in mountainous areas where it usually floods during snowmelt. 

Some gophers build their homes near waterways. They also use the flood to disperse and swim to another location. 

While swimming, gophers slightly tilt their heads at an angle so that only their body will be submerged in the water. They use their short and powerful legs to paddle the water, similar to how dogs paddle.

They also use their tail to help by waving it in a lateral sculling action. This sculling results in a slight pushing forward force that assists their swimming. 

Can You Get Rid Of Gophers By Flooding Their Tunnels?

Flooding gopher tunnels with water may sometimes work, but it harms the lawn and does not ensure success. Flooding their tunnels is the worst method to drive gophers away, and it might even make it easier for the gopher to dig new tunnels, by loosening the dirt. 

When the tunnel starts flooding, the gopher can easily retreat to parts of their tunnels that are higher in the ground until the water subsides. 

Add to that, that gophers are good swimmers, which means that they’ll be more than able to simply swim away. If you do succeed to drive gophers away, flooding them out is still heartless and very inhumane. 

There are better and more humane alternatives for removing gophers from your backyards. Examples of harm-free and efficient ways to keep them away are live-trapping, using gopher natural repellents, and natural deterrents. 


  • Tommy

    Hi, I'm Tommy! I'm the founder of I am an animal enthusiast and self-proclaimed wildlife expert as well as a dog trainer and breeder of the breed Löwchen. Since I was a kid, I’ve been wildly fascinated by animals, both from growing up in a rural area where there were always animals around, but especially from seeing them in the wild.

    View all posts

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment