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Gopher is the common term for any of several distinct species of small burrowing rodents endemic to North America, including: the pocket gophers (family Geomyidae), also called true gophers, and some ground squirrels (family Sciuridae), particularly prairie dogs and Richardson's ground squirrel.
Gophers weigh around 0.5 pounds (230 g), and are about 15 inches (38 cm) long in body length, with a tail 7 inches (18 cm) long. Their lifespan is normally 2–3 years (assuming no diseases or predation). Gophers dig tunnels and subterranean chambers, and are associated with the rodent order, Rodentia. There are over 100 kinds of gophers in America. Gophers, because of their burrowing, can disrupt human plans like commercial agriculture, garden plots, some landscaping, and some underground cables. This has led to their frequent treatment as pests.
Gophers are generally timid but may attack if provoked. If deprived of their normal vegetarian food supply, gophers have been known to resort to cannibalism.
Gophers create a large community of tunnels with large mounds of dirt at their entrances, frequently referred to as gopher towns or gopher holes. They are also thought to be responsible for Mima Mounds, stretching for many km across the landscape. Adult gophers will frequently stand watch at the entrance to a tunnel and whistle when predators are spotted, causing all the other gophers to run for the safety of the tunnels. A gopher town can easily spread to take over large sections of prairie or mountain meadow and may have a population in the thousands. The resulting destruction of plant life will then leave the area a stretch of denuded dirt. Gophers eat shrubs and other vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, radishes, and any other vegetables with juice.
Gophers commonly eat grubs and earthworms. Other food in their diet consists of root crops, squash, fruited vegetables, grains, leafy plants, legumes, and cole.
In popular culture
- Gainer the Gopher is the mascot of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
- An animated gopher is the official mascot of the Go programming language.
- It is the name of one the internet protocols which was very popular in its early times, now mostly in disuse.
- A gopher is a character in the Disney version of Winnie the Pooh.
- A gopher figures prominently in the movie Caddyshack.
- Gophers are protagonists of the pinball machines No Good Gofers and Tee'd Off.
- The University of Minnesota's mascot is a gopher.