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The Gopher


This remarkable little animal somewhat resembles the Mole in its

general appearance and habits. It is also commonly known as the

Canada Pouched Rat, and is principally found west of the Mississippi

and northward. It is a burrowing animal, and like the Mole drives

its subterranean tunnels in all directions, throwing up little

hillocks at regular intervals of from five to twenty feet. Its

body is thick set and clumsy and
about ten inches long, and its

Mole-like claws are especially adapted for digging. Its food consists

of roots and vegetables, and its

long and projecting incisors are powerful agents in cutting the

roots which cross its path in making its burrow. The most striking

characteristic of the animal, and that from which it takes its

name, consists in the large cheek pouches which hang from each

side of the mouth and extend back to to shoulders. They are used as

receptacles of food which the animal hurriedly gathers when above

ground, afterward returning to its burrow to enjoy its feast at its

leisure. It was formerly very commonly and erroneously believed

that the Gopher used its pouches in conveying the earth from its

burrow, and this is generally supposed at the present day, but

it is now known that the animal uses these pockets only for the

conveyance of its food.

The color of the fur is reddish-brown on the upper parts, fading

to ashy-brown on the abdomen, and the feet are white.

In making its tunnels, the dirt is brought to the surface, thus

making the little mounds after the manner of the mole. After having

dug its tunnel for several feet the distance becomes so great as

to render this process impossible, and the old hole is carefully

stopped up and a new one made at the newly excavated end of the

tunnel, the animal continuing on in its labors and dumping from

the fresh orifice. These mounds of earth occur at intervals on

the surface of the ground, and although no hole can be discovered

beneath them, they nevertheless serve to indicate the track of

the burrow, which lies several inches beneath.

The Gopher is a great pest to western cultivators, and by its root

feeding and undermining propensities does extensive injury to crops

generally. They may be successfully trapped in the following manner:

Strike a line between the two most recent earth mounds, and midway

between them remove a piece of the sod. By the aid of a trowel

or a sharp stick the burrow may now be reached. Insert your hand

in the tunnel and enlarge the interior sufficiently to allow the

introduction of No. (0) steel trap. Set the trap flatly in the

bottom of the burrow, and then laying a piece of shingle or a few

sticks across the excavation replace the sod. Several traps may

be thus set in the burrows at considerable distances apart, and a

number of the animals thus taken. The traps are sometimes inserted

in the burrows from the hillocks, by first finding the hole and

then enlarging it by inserting the arm and digging with the hand

beneath. The former method, however, is preferable.

The skin of the Gopher may be pulled off the body either by cutting

up the hind less, as described in reference to the Fox,

or by making the incision from the lower jaw down the neck, as decided

for the muskrat, a simple board stretcher being used.