Gopher or Prairie Dog?

It can be hard to distinguish the difference between prairie dogs and gophers. Both are small rodents that enjoy digging in yards. However, there are some differences in their habits and appearance. Look for these visual cues:

  • Fur - Prairie dogs have coarse, light brown fur with white or black accents. Gophers, on the other hand, have smooth, pliable fur. It can be dark brown, yellow-brown, or gray in color.
  • Claws - While prairie dogs use their short, muscular legs for digging, the front paws of a gopher are equipped with long claws.
  • Teeth - Gophers have large, visible front teeth that help them loosen dirt, rocks, and roots. Prairie dogs have much smaller, less noticeable incisors.

Prairie Dog vs. Gopher Activity

Homeowners who spot an animal in the yard can also observe the pest's habits and behavior to determine whether it's a prairie dog or a gopher.

Prairie dogs are active during the day and spend plenty of time above ground. As such, the pests are easy to spot. They are also social animals, living with others in connected burrows.

Gopher sightings are much rarer. These rodents stay in their tunnels during most of the day and are solitary except during mating season.

Identifying Gopher or Prairie Dog Damage

Prairie dogs mostly eat grass, but will also consume flowering, leafy plants and roots. Gophers will also eat trees, which is the main difference between the prairie dog and gopher diet.

The feeding habits of both animals can cause issues in the yard. Subterranean burrows created by a gopher or prairie dog make the ground hazardous to walk on. Prairie dogs may also strip bark from trees, while gophers eat roots.

Prairie Dog Dangers

While both pests pose problems, prairie dogs are a greater threat to humans. One key reason is that they can carry plague-infected fleas.

Additionally, while gopher mounds have closed entrances, prairie dog burrows are open and often house other animals like rattlesnakes and black widow spiders.

Controlling Conflicts

When comparing problems caused by prairie dogs and gophers, it is clear that both are a concern for residents.

Modifying yards to be less appealing to the pests can help, but this is costly and time-consuming. The specialists at Critter Control have the training to remove nuisance wildlife safely and efficiently.