The Mazama Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama)
The inner lips keep out dirt while the gopher digs.Photo Credit: Kim Flotlin, USFWS
Washington’s Mazama Pocket Gophers are busy burrowing rodents that live under our feet in the prairie soils of Western Washington. The word “pocket” in “pocket gopher” is not a description of their size, but rather refers to the pocket-like pouches in their cheeks that they stuff full of food and nesting material. These fur-lined pouches can be turned inside out and emptied, like you would your pants pockets. Not only do these 6 -9 inch diggers create tunnels to store food (forbs, grasses, fleshy roots and bulbs), but they also dig deep tunnels with chambers that act as nurseries for their young, pantries, and latrines. The shallower tunnels are used mainly for foraging as they scurry and burrow under the soil.