Pocket Gophers & Their Fur: Full of Fluff

Pocket gophers are tiny burrowing creatures that can be found all over North America. The pocket part of their name comes from the fur-lined cheek pouches they have on each side of the mouth, a convenient place to carry their food.

Despite their size, these little guys are filled to the brim with fluff! We’ll examine the gopher’s lovely fur, hair, and tail in more detail in this post.

Pocket gopher emerging from a hole among brown leaves and green plants.
Source: Siamesepuppy on Flickr 

What Does The Pocket Gopher’s Fur Look Like?

Gophers spend most of their time underground and when they surface, they’re usually covered in dirt so their fluffiness isn’t immediately apparent. They have a thick undercoat, which is covered by guard hairs that are coarse and stiff. 

The guard hairs are typically shorter than the undercoat, which gives the fur a soft and fluffy 

appearance. The hairs grow on their front legs and shoulders. This hair helps protect their skin as they burrow through the earth.  

What Colors Can Pocket Gophers Have?

The pocket gopher’s fur is usually a rich chocolate-brown color, but can also be black or a reddish-brown. It is the same colors as the soil they live in. 

Pocket gopher digging.
Source: Renee Grayson on Flickr 

Gophers are assumed to have this coloring for adaptive purposes. Since they are similarly colored with the ground, they can’t be easily seen by predators, even if they hardly come out of their burrows.

Do Pocket Gophers Have Stripes, Spots, Or Other Markings?

These fluffy cuties don’t have stripes, spots, or unusual markings on their fur. Occasionally, the fur colors have a combination of earth hues like brown, black, and/or red but in general, their color is uniform throughout their bodies.

Is The Pocket Gopher’s Fur Soft?

Yes! The gopher’s fur is as soft as it looks. It’s almost tempting to reach out and have a feel of the thick softness of it, but remember that pocket gophers are not stuffed animals. They are wild and may be spooked when they see a hand coming near them.

Do Pocket Gophers Have Different Winter and Summer Coats?

Pocket gopher above ground moving through snow.
Source: Eugene van der Pijl on Wikimedia Commons

Gophers do not have seasonal coats like some North American animals, such as the Snowshoe Hare which sheds its brown summer fur to a winter white one. Gopher fur is the same all year-round, fluffy enough to provide insulation and protection from the rough earth as they dig their tunnels. 

Do Pocket Gophers Have Furry Tails?

A pocket gopher’s tail is nearly hairless, unlike the rest of its body. It’s about 2-3 inches long and it’s an important part of the gopher’s anatomy.

What Does The Pocket Gopher Use Its Tail For?

The gopher tail is not only a cute addition to the gopher’s body but is also a tool to help the gopher to:

  • Balance its body as it burrows underground 
  • Used as a rudder when they swim through water-filled tunnels
  • Scent glands on the tail serve as communication with other gophers by marking their territory and also a scent trail for attracting mates
  • Help protect gophers in their burrow by using it to block the entrance from predators

The gopher tail may not look like much but it’s a badass appendage!

Fact: Gophers don’t have the greatest eyesight or hearing. Its tail and whiskers make up for this deficiency by being sensitive enough to sense what’s happening around them all the time. 

Do Pocket Gophers Have Whiskers?

Pocket gopher emerging from a hole, looking directly towards the viewer.
Source: Zyg Zee on Flicker

Yes, gophers have whiskers. Whiskers, also known as vibrissae, are long, stiff, and sensitive hairs that are found on the face of many mammals, including gophers. They are thicker, longer, and stiffer than regular hair. These sensitive whiskers are used to:

  • Sense the gopher’s surroundings 
  • Help the gopher navigate through tight spaces
  • Detect vibrations and movements in the soil 
  • Locate food
  • Communicate with other gophers
Fact: The gopher’s buck teeth may look cartoonish, but the adorable overbite has an important function. Along with its claws, the gopher uses its front teeth for digging, the lips closing behind them to prevent dirt from going inside the mouth.

Are Pocket Gophers’ Pelts Used For Anything?

Gopher pelts have traditionally been used for a variety of purposes. The fur of gophers is soft, warm, and durable which makes it suitable for clothing and other items. Indigenous people would also trade pelts of small animals, which may include gopher pelts, for iron tools or textiles. 

Today, their use is not as common as it once was. There is no longer a need to use their pelts to keep people warm because synthetic fibers and other materials have become more widely available.

Author: Mitzie C

Mitzie is a writer and animal welfare advocate. Her writing is inspired by her love for her rescue cats, Eddy and Dylan, and her rescue dogs, Cypher, Daegu and Holly. Follow her journey as she discovers her unique voice here in Floofmania and shares her insights on the importance of the animal kingdom.

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