University Of Wyoming Researchers Develop Technique To Identify Elusive Wyoming Pocket Gopher

Jan 19, 2021

The Wyoming Pocket Gopher lives almost its entire life underground.
Credit US Fish & Wildlife Service

The Wyoming Pocket Gopher is extremely hard to study, but scientists at the University of Wyoming have found one way to make it easier.

UW researcher Britt Brito said pocket gophers spend almost their entire lives underground.

"They live in these underground, intricate burrow systems and they very rarely come to the surface for any reason," she said. "They typically forage on roots that go through these tunnels that they're digging."

That means they're hard to find and catch.

"The Wyoming pocket gopher has been petitioned to be listed under the endangered species act twice now," said Brito. "Both times they haven't been given a listing status just because nobody knows anything about this species."

Brito and her team measured the size of the animal's tunnels. She said the Wyoming Pocket Gopher makes smaller tunnels than other gophers. That means they can identify it without having to capture it.

Brito said the Wyoming Pocket Gopher isn't found anywhere else in the world. She said it's important to learn where in the state it lives, so scientists can make sure it's habitat is conserved.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.