Gopher Gawking Guide

Gopher gawking is becoming almost as popular as bird watching (well, maybe that's an overstatement), but there aren't many gopher gawking guides available. So to help with IDs, I've updated the taxon range maps for Geomys here in iNat. By using the "Compare/Suggestions" feature, one can make pretty confident IDs based on these distribution maps. All the species of Geomys look about the same, so geographical location is really the only way to ID them without genetic data. The range maps I added here on iNat should be fairly accurate. I've spent a considerable amount of time in the published literature to get these maps as accurate as possible. I've also spent time in the field and have used DNA sequencing to clarify some areas. Also, I've generated soil maps using GIS to fine tune potential distributions in Texas. And I've supplemented all this by locating gopher mounds using Google Maps satellite imagery in parts of Texas. The contact zones between some species pairs have not been mapped well yet (requiring much field work and genetic analysis), so these remain areas of uncertainty: G. knoxjonesi vs. G. bursarius in the Texas panhandle, G. personatus vs. G. attwateri between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, and G. bursarius vs. G. breviceps north of Dallas. Otherwise, one can ID gophers of the genus Geomys quite accurately using these iNat range maps.

In western TX and eastern NM, two other genera of gophers occur (Cratogeomys and Thomomys) and they can be difficult to distinguish from Geomys without a specimen in hand (showing the incisors) in areas where their range overlaps.



Range maps of each species of Geomys (based on museum data and unpublished research): https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/map?taxa=44052,44058,44053,44054,44059,44055,44060,74359,%2044057,423601,44056#6/34.251/-93.87

To ID your gopher (assuming it's Geomys), click the "compare" button, make sure Geomys is the Taxon and United States is the Place. From there you'll have the list of species to choose from and their range maps.



For documenting gophers, pics of mounds can be sufficient, but be sure to get pics that distinguish them from mole hills. These characteristics include the following.
  1. Texture of soil in the mound and shape of mound:
    --very lumpy texture and symmetrical mound shape = mole
    --granular texture (not lumpy) and asymmetrical (often with a plug visible toward one side) = gopher

  2. Position of mounds (this difference not always visible, use in conjunction with soil texture and shape of mounds):
    --no directional pattern or rarely distinctly curved line = mole
    --several mounds in a fairly straight line = gopher

  3. Raised tunnels pushed up as the animal moves along just below the surface = mole (gophers' tunnels are well below ground and never visible at the surface). These raised tunnels aren't always present, but when they are, it's a sure sign of moles and not gophers.

Have fun gopher gawking!

Posted by pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton, December 01, 2019 03:04

Comments

@sambiology, you may be the only person who appreciates this

Posted by pfau_tarleton over 2 years ago (Flag)

Gawk gawk gawk! :)

Yes, this is a great journal entry -- I'll be sure to link to it as I try to ID some gophers here on iNat.

@connlindajo will appreciate her gopher observation being used to highlight a mound as well. :)

Posted by sambiology over 2 years ago (Flag)

The range maps are a culmination (well, still in progress) of several years worth of slowly accumulating data. Hopefully, I'll be able to publish them some day.

Posted by pfau_tarleton over 2 years ago (Flag)

Thanks for the tag @sambiology! I think about you every time I pass a new gopher mound. I consider stopping, disturbing the mound a bit, and patiently waiting for a head to pop out to photo. This is an incentive for me to get a live shot. Thanks for the info @pfau_tarleton.
You are certainly a man of many interests.

Posted by connlindajo over 2 years ago (Flag)
Posted by juancruzado 6 months ago (Flag)

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