Cratogeomys castanops
(Baird, 1852)

crA-tO-gE-O-mEs cas-tan-ops

An adult Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher

The yellow-faced pocket gopher is the largest gopher in Kansas. It is distinguished from the plains pocket gopher by one groove, instead of two, on the midline of the upper incisor teeth. The body is stout, cylindrical, merging anteriorly into the head without a noticeable neck. The front legs are powerful, with long claws. Like the plains pocket gopher, skin loosely covers the body and tail. The soft, sleek fur is yellowish brown, intermixed with black-tipped hairs above; underparts are buffy. The short tail is yellowish brown tipped with black, and used as a feeler or prop while digging. The feet are grayish. Although this animal lives underground its color varies according to the color of the soil, being darker in humid areas and grayer in light dry soils. Changes of hair between summer and winter are marked by a molt line that separates the darker summer pelage from the lighter winter pelage. As hair is replaced the line moves progressively from the snout to the tail. External fur-lined cheek pouches, used for carrying food, originate from slits on the sides of the face and extend back to the shoulders. Well-developed tear glands wash the surface of the eyes during digging. Large incisor teeth are evergrowing and project forward. They are surrounded at their bases by lips which can be closed behind the teeth. The tongue blocks and supports the lips. The teeth thus can be used for excavating the tunnel system without getting dirt in the mouth.

The yellow-faced pocket gopher is found only in the southwestern part of the state where it inhabits areas of heavy, clay soils in both bottomlands and uplands, but prefers the shallower soils of the latter. It avoids rocky soils and cultivated fields.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 187 Total Records 
  • 135 Museum Vouchers 
  • 52 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Finney (45); Ford (58); Gray (2); Hamilton (39); Hodgeman (28); Lane (6); Ness (9);

Natural History:
The yellow-faced pocket gopher is rarely seen except when removing dirt at the mouth of its burrow and when it feeds on green vegetation in the immediate vicinity of its burrow entrance. Since these animals are extremely active, working frequently during both day and night throughout the year, chances for observing their behavior are favorable. Remaining patient and quiet where fresh soil is being pushed to the surface may permit an observer to see the animal within a few minutes. Burrows sealed with fresh soil show temporary cessation of activity. If the mound is actively used the plug of dirt will be 80-90 mm in depth, whereas an inactive mound will be completely plugged for about a meter from its entrance. These burrows lead to a main tunnel. The mounds of dirt originate in the soil excavated while extending tunnels. Because the burrow slopes up to the surface, soil is thrust out from the entrance of the burrow as a fan-shaped mound. Most burrows dug for foraging are superficial and are usually no deeper than 200-400 mm, whereas the main burrow may be a meter or more below ground. These deeper burrows connect with the den and other storage chambers. Except for breeding, gophers are solitary and each adult inhabits its own system of tunnels. 
Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 235-303 mm; tail 54-86 mm; hind foot 31-40 mm; ear 5-8 mm; weight 190-395 grams; males are somewhat larger than females.
Food consists of tubers, roots, and bulbs which are dug underground, but green vegetation also is grazed from the surface. Both kinds of vegetation are stored in subterranean chambers.

Occurrence Activity:
The action of gophers in the soil are beneficial for both plant and animal communities. Gophers mix and deepen soils just as effectively as if the fields were plowed, although considerably slower than by human methods. Gopher mounds cover surface vegetation, thus incorporating sometimes over 50 percent of surface plant material into the soil. By-products of the gopher and unconsumed plant material enhances the fertility of the soil. Their tunnels permit deeper penetration of air and water into the soil. The tunnels also collect runoff of early melting snows and rain storms.As this animal is active both day and night, it is subject to continuous predation. Snakes and weasels enter the tunnel systems, hawks and owls prey upon gophers active at entrances of burrows, and badgers, coyotes, and foxes dig them from their burrows. Mounds made by moles are different from those of gophers in that they are conical because soil is extruded from a vertical burrow.

Account Last Updated:
7/13/2017 10:26:18 AM

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