Two species of pocket gophers make their homes in Zion National Park: Botta's pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae), also known as the valley pocket gopher, and the northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides). These species are hard to tell apart—both are medium-sized rodents with large yellowish front teeth, tiny ears, and nearly hairless tails. They are usually brownish in color, but their color varies to blend in with their particular habitat. Botta's pocket gopher is generally found at lower elevations, although their ranges overlap in Zion.
The solitary pocket gopher is an impressive digger, removing soil as it creates tunnels two to three inches in diameter, up to 18 inches below the ground surface. A single burrow system may contain up to 200 yards of tunnels. The pocket gopher has a special lip behind its incisors that helps keep dirt out of its mouth while excavating. Though you are likely to see their tunnels or mounds of soil, you will probably not see the gopher itself;this rodent is a very shy creature, never venturing more than a few feet from its burrow. Common places to see gopher mounds are the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and the Human History Museum, though they can be found throughout the park.
Last updated: October 2, 2015