Facts about the pocket gopher

   The Pocket Gopher is a family of pouched rodents. There are several species inhabiting the plains of Central and North Amer­ica. The pouched gopher has teeth like those of a rat and soft fur. It looks like a large mole, but it has a wrinkled, villainously cross countenance. Its peculiar name comes from a large outside pouch, which may be likened to a deep, roomy dimple, near each corner of the mouth. The pocket gopher lives underground. Instead of pushing the dirt aside and crowding its body through, as a mole does, the gopher excavates long passages like the tunnel of an underground railway, something more than the depth of a plow furrow beneath the surface. The fore paws are armed with strong claws with which it digs its way, cramming the dirt into its pouches until they are bulged like apples. It then proceeds to the mouth of its burrow and ejects the soil, by a muscular heave of the pockets, to a distance of four or five inches. When the tunnel has progressed a few yards, the old opening is filled up and a new outlet is made above the point of digging. The course of the tunnel may be traced by the piles of dirt —a few quarts, or possibly a half a bushel, at regular intervals, sometimes for half a mile across the prairie sward or stubble field. The gopher is quite shy and ceases to work if alarmed, but resumes when all is quiet. About all that one can see, however, is a handful of dirt mysteriously heaved out every once in a while.

   The gopher lives on such roots apparently as it meets in its burrowing or finds readily in its burrow walls. It collects stores of the roots of wild sunflowers and the like. Ordinarily the pocket gopher does little damage. Once in a while it locates a row of young potatoes and follows it industriously, taking every tuber. Gophers are easily taken by setting a steel trap loosely sprinkled with earth in the bottom of the tunnel. The excavation must be covered up again to darken the runway. Badgers are the chief foe of the pocket gopher. When pursued it burrows rapidly, packing the dirt behind it. A dog cannot dig fast enough to overtake it. The western prairies are dotted with little hillocks a few feet high, called go­pher knolls. It is not known whether they have been heaped up by generations of pocket gophers or not; but, at all events, they are centers of gopher life deep within which the home nest is excavated.