More on gophers : KC's Blog
KC's Wild Facts

(Kool Cat)

(Kool Cat)
KC's Wild Facts 

More on gophers

by Kool Cat KC on 03/29/12

My human has been having a lot of fun these last two weeks doing author visits at schools.  She loves it! She has visited Red Mountain Elementary School, in Ivins, Utah; Santa Clara Elementary School in Santa Clara, Utah; and the Vista School in Ivins, Utah. One of the questions the students have been asking her, is "What is you favorite animal?" I think the students think that gophers are her favorite animal, because she's written this book about them. But she tells me that every time they ask that question she says Kool Cat KC (that's me!) is her favorite animal. She'd better! Is there anyone out there that can tell me if I'm still her favorite?
She really does like gophers second best, and then blue-footed boobies, and then giant Galápagos Island tortoises. She likes them because she's learned a lot about them. She's funny like that. So she's asked me to share more info about gophers with you.  
Northern pocket gophers, which is what her book "Gopher to the Rescue, a Volcano Recovery Story" is all about, like to live in the mountains. They can live as high as 11,000 feet, although they prefer elevations ranging from 3600 to 8,000.  No wonder they loved Mount St. Helens! In addition to living in mountain meadows like in Mount St. Helens, northern pocket gophers live in short-grass prairies, in valleys full of grass and of course, on farmers’ fields.  Some even live under the canopy of the forest.
My human thinks that if you saw a gopher, you would think  they are perfectly made for tunneling.  They are shaped like a two sided torpedo—pointy on both ends and rounded along the middle, and they are smaller than a squirrel.  They measure between six and ten inches and weigh between two and five ounces. Their fur is brownish and sometimes, when they molt, it can seem as if they have bands of color around their bodies.  To dig, they have strong claws and huge teeth—incisors—sharp and fast growing.  Their skin is loose and their upper body is strong for digging.  Since they don’t need them much, gophers have very small eyes and ears for their size.  What northern pocket gophers have that makes them different from other gophers and other animals are external cheek pouches.  These pockets are located behind their ear and lined with fur. Gophers stuff them with any food they find and carry the food into their tunnels for storage. Sometimes they stuff the pockets so full, they drag the ground.
Gophers even dig tunnels in winter to find food. And what do they really like to eat?  You have already seen that gophers like roots and bulbs and vegetables that grow underground.  But they like grass too, and leaves.  About 80% of the plant material they eat is from above ground. 
Can you think of other animals that store their food? Where do they store it? How do they find it later?
Can you think of other animals that have pouches? What do they use these pouches for? Of course, my human wants you to research this and write me about it. Put it in a comment. I'll try to answer all I can.
Later, KC

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These are pictures of the scientists in the cave where a new species, Homo Nadeli, was discovered by two cavers. So many bones! The scientific work is being led by Dr. Lee Berger of the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa. Terry's thanks to National Geographic for providing these pictures. This was a cover story in the October Nat Geo Magazine.
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