Botta’s Pocket Gopher
Botta’s Pocket Gopher, Thomomys bottae, is native to western North America, from California east to Texas and from southern Utah south to Mexico. It is found everywhere from arid deserts to high altitude meadows and is highly adaptable. In California, this species is also known as the Valley Pocket Gopher. Over 185 subspecies have been described for this animal, mostly based on geographical distribution.
The pocket gopher is medium-sized, reaching a length of about 9.8 to 10.2 inches and a weight of 5.6 to 8.8 ounces. Females are smaller than males and reach a length of about 8.6 inches. It is strictly herbivorous, and will often pull plants into the ground by the roots to consume them in the safety of its burrow, where it spends nearly all of its life. Their burrows can attain lengths of more than 475 feet, and only extend above the ground in times of snowfall.
Main predators of this species include badgers, coyotes, weasels, and snakes, but other predators include skunks, owls, bobcats, and hawks. This species is considered a pest in urban and agricultural areas due to its burrowing habit and its taste for alfalfa. However, it is also considered beneficial as its burrows are a key source of aeration for soils in the region.
Both the specific and common names of this species honor Paul-Ã‰mile Botta, a naturalist and archaeologist who collected mammals in California in the 1820s and 1830s.