Michael Ellis explores the burrowing, tunneling, hungry world of the industrious gopher.
There were 15 of us standing in a circle staring down at the ground as I attempted to entice the gopher out of his hole. By placing pieces of a carrot farther and farther, I had managed to lure the critter way out into the open. Eventually, we could see the entire body as he darted up, grabbed the morsel and quickly slid backwards into the hole. As I was describing the gopher's adaptations for a life under the ground, one of the observers spontaneously put his car keys down in place of the carrot. The gopher came up, grabbed the keys and disappeared. Whoops.
The gopher was back up in seconds, sans the keys.
Gophers, much maligned by gardeners, occupy virtually every habitat throughout the Bay Area. These busy little rodents dig, claw and bite their way through the soil, collectively creating thousands of miles of underground tunnels. The net impact is enormous.
"Gaufre," which is French for honeycomb, was the word used by early French settlers in North America for this mammal. This well describes their actions. A single pocket gopher can have 2,000 square feet of tunnels! They constantly burrow searching for food mostly succulent roots, bulbs or Swiss chard plants in your garden.