Last updated: April 12, 2017
During monthly herpetofauna surveys in March, CABR biologists and wildlife VIPs discovered a cute little furry critter hiding in a cup in a pitfall bucket (a 5-gallon bucket situated into the ground). This was something they had never seen before, and it turns out, had never been caught in the 20+ years of monitoring! Though it is not on the park’s official species list, there are records for the Botta’s Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae) in the San Diego Natural History Museum, where it had been historically observed and recorded on adjacent Navy land in Point Loma.
Though we haven’t we seen the Botta’s Pocket Gopher before, why now? It could be due to the massive rains San Diego has been having this winter, increasing food supplies and thus activity for a variety of wildlife. This particular species is also difficult to capture in pitfall traps because it spends a lot of its life underground.
Botta’s Pocket Gophers feed strictly on plants, including shoots and grasses, and even bulbs, roots and tubers. Though viewed as a pest in many households, pocket gophers are beneficial to the environment because they can aerate soils up to a depth of almost a foot. They can be found in a variety of soils, including very had packed clays – unlike many other types of gophers, these particular gophers can dig with their teeth, which don’t wear down as quickly as claws can.