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Northern Pocket Gopher - Thomomys talpoides

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Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:
FWP Conservation Tier: 3


 

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General Description
The Northern Pocket Gopher, so named for its large, external, fur-lined cheek pouches, measures about 8 inches length in total, with a short, nearly hairless tail of 2 1/2 inches. Its weight varies from 2 3/4 to 4 3/5 ounces (Burt and Grossenheider). It has soft reddish-brown upper fur and a dark gray underside. In the eastern areas of its distribution, the upper fur becomes lighter brown with an orangish or yellowish cast (Foresman 2012). The fur can be smoothed forward or backward (Zeveloff 1988). Black patches surround the small, nearly hidden ears. Well-developed jaw, neck, forearm, and shoulder muscles give this rodent a solid appearance, while narrow hips (Kritzman 1977) and loose skin enable it to turn 180 degrees in its tunnels (Foresman 2012). It is equipped with long curved claws on three digits of its forepaws (Foresman 2012) and sharply curved, always exposed, yellowish incisors for digging and cutting. The feet are whitish and the incisors may be white-tipped. There may also be white markings under the chin (Zeveloff 1988). The Northern Pocket Gopher has 20 teeth with a shallow groove near the inner side of each upper incisor (Burt and Grossenheider 1964). It begins a gradual molting in spring, marked by a moving band of fur which progresses from the blackish nose to base of tail by the end of the summer.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Western Hemisphere Range

 


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 1212

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)



Migration
Non-migratory.

Habitat
Uses a wide variety of habitats, from cultivated fields and prairie to alpine meadows (Jones et al. 1983). It avoids only dense forests, very shallow, rocky soils, and areas with poor snow cover where the soil frezes over (Hoffman and Pattie 1968).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
In addition to the mainstay of underground plant parts, may occasionally use leaves of forbs, but only within close range of a burrow opening (Jones et al. 1983).

Ecology
Pockets are used for transporting food. Lips can be closed behind incisors. Short, sensitive, sparsely-haired tail used for guidance when traveling backwards in burrow. Lower level for nest & storage, upper for foraging (Jones et al. 1983).

Reproductive Characteristics
Young are weaned at 40 days. Dispersal (at 2 months) may be above ground or below ground. Reproductively mature at 1 year (Jones et al. 1983).

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
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Citation for data on this website:
Northern Pocket Gopher — Thomomys talpoides.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=AMAFC01040
 
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