Species Assessment for Wyoming Pocket Gopher (Thomomys Clusius) in Wyoming

Publication Information

Gary P. Beauvais
Darby N. Dark-Smiley
Publication Date: 2005-06
Tags: WLCI Agency Report, BLM, WLCI

Pocket gophers are small, vole-like members of the family Geomyidae. They inhabit much of

the western half of the United States, a large area of southwestern Canada, and much of Mexico
(Bailey 1915). They are powerfully built mammals that are strongly adapted to fossorial living,
with small ears, small eyes, fur-lined cheek pouches used to carry food, and very strong front
limbs with long nails used for digging. There are several species of pocket gophers in Wyoming
and the surrounding states. All look very similar, making it difficult to distinguish specimens to
species. Reliable identification has to involve chromosomal analysis (i.e., karyotyping to count
chromosome number), with supporting information from geographic location, pelage characters,
and overall morphology.

The Wyoming pocket gopher (Thomomys clusius) is restricted to a very small portion of
southcentral Wyoming (Clark and Stromberg 1987), probably extending slightly into northern
Colorado. Very little is known regarding Wyoming pocket gophers; much of their life history is
assumed similar to that of the northern pocket gopher (T. talpoides). Wyoming pocket gophers are small, with fur that has a distinctive yellow cast, and may prefer to occupy dry and gravelly ridge tops, as opposed to the valley bottoms with deeper soils that are typically associated with T. talpoides (Clark and Stromberg 1987). As with other species of Thomomys, Wyoming pocket
gophers are active throughout the year and feed primarily on forbs and grasses. They live in
subterranean burrow systems that allow them to feed underground and maintain their nests. They
are thought to breed from May to June, and produce litters of 4-7 young (Verts and Carraway
1999). Population status is generally unknown, due to an extreme paucity of data, but the species is assumed to be rare and has a very restricted distribution. Although considered pests in some agricultural situations, pocket gophers are important in soil development (adding organic matter), soil aeration, and promoting water storage in soil during spring runoff (Clark and Stromberg 1987). By virtue of the arid and rocky nature of their habitat, it is very doubtful that Wyoming pocket gopher activity detracts from any agricultural production.


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