Geomys bursarius 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Geomyidae

Scientific Name: Geomys bursarius (Shaw, 1800)
Common Name(s):
English Plains Pocket Gopher
Geomys bursarius Merriam, 1890 ssp. lutescens
Geomys bursarius Davis, 1940 ssp. major
Geomys bursarius Elrod, Zimmerman, Sudman & Heidt, 2000 ssp. ozarkensis
Taxonomic Notes: The phylogenetic relationships of Geomys in general and of G. bursarius in particular are complex and uncertain (Zimmerman, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). Several taxa that formerly were considered to be subspecies of G. bursarius are now recognized as distinct species (G. attwateri, G. arenarius, G. breviceps, G. knoxjonesi, G. texensis).

Subspecies lutescens was regarded as a distinct species by Heaney and Timm (1983, 1985) and Jolley et al. (2000), but lutescens was regarded as a subspecies by Burns et al. (1985), Elrod et al. (2000), and Patton (in Wilson and Reeder 2005).

At a contact zone in eastern New Mexico, Baker et al. (1989) found that major and knoxjonesi are functioning as biological species with gene pools that are effectively isolated (restricted gene flow). Block and Zimmerman (1991) recognized knoxjonesi as a distinct species. After studying mitochondrial RNA, Jolley et al. (2000) determined that G. knoxjonesi and G. arenarius appeared to be different lineages within Geomys, but state that "further investigation of G. knoxjonesi and G. b. major are warranted." Baker et al. (2003), and Patton (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) regarded knoxjonesi as a distinct species, whereas major was recognized as a subspecies of G. bursarius (Patton, in Wilson and Reeder 2005).

Block and Zimmerman (1991) analyzed allozymic evidence and found that the taxa formerly known as G. b. texensis and G. b. llanensis are a single genetic entity (regarded as Geomys texensis) that is specifically distinct from Geomys bursarius.

Elrod et al. (2000) determined that isolated populations in the Ozark Mountains are genetically and morphologically divergent. They described those populations as a new subspecies (G. b. ozarkensis).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-08-08
Assessor(s): Cassola, F.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G.
Contributor(s): Hammerson, G.A. & Linzey, A.
Listed as Least Concern because it is very widespread, common in suitable habitat, adaptable, there are no major threats, and its populations are currently stable.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is known from the Great Plains of North America from southern Manitoba (Canada), eastern North Dakota, Minnesota, and western Wisconsin south to New Mexico and Texas in the United States. The eastern portion of the range extends to extreme western Indiana (Patton 2005).
Countries occurrence:
Canada (Manitoba); United States (Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:They are common and considered a pest in some locations. Population density averages four to five individuals per acre (Banfield 1974).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The plains pocket gopher prefers open lands such as prairies, pastures, cultivated areas with deep, friable, moist soils; e.g., sandy or moist alluvial soils in Oklahoma. Also oak-hickory savanna, oak savanna mixed with maple-basswood forest, mesquite prairie, prairie-deciduous forest mosaic (Williams, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). They often occur in human-created habitats such as lawns, cemeteries, golf courses and along roadsides. The species is fossorial, denning underground in extensive tunnel systems. Most mounds and tunnels are constructed in the spring and fall. Mating takes place in spring. Gestation lasts about 30 days. Females give birth to one litter of an average four to five young each year, between March and May. The female evicts young from the burrow when they are ready to be weaned. They are sexually mature in 12 months.

The plains pocket gopher is active day and night; peak digging periods are at night and during crepuscular hours. Diet includes, fleshy roots, succulent stems, and small fruits are preferred. They are solitary animals, living within loose "colonies." Tunnels between neighbours are not interconnected. Home ranges are small. Pocket gophers are ecologically important as prey items and in influencing soils, microtopography, habitat heterogeneity, diversity of plant species, and primary productivity (Huntly and Inouye 1988).
Generation Length (years):3-4

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no major threats to this species. Because this species is often considered a pest, it is frequently the target of poisoning and trapping methods to control populations.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is not of conservation concern, and its range includes some protected areas.

Errata [top]

Errata reason: This errata assessment has been created because the map was accidentally left out of the version published previously.

Classifications [top]

2. Savanna -> 2.2. Savanna - Moist
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.1. Artificial/Terrestrial - Arable Land
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.2. Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.4. Artificial/Terrestrial - Rural Gardens

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education

Bibliography [top]

Baker, R.J. 1989. Ribosomal-DNA, mitochondrial-DNA, chromosomal, and allozymic studies on a contact zone in the pocket gopher, Geomys. Evolution 43: 63-75.

Baker, R.J., Bradley, L.C., Bradley, R.D., Dragoo, J.W., Engstrom, M.D., Hoffman, R.S., Jones, C.A., Reid, F., Rice, D.W. and Jones, C. 2003. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 2003. Occasional Papers, Museum of Texas Tech University 229: 23 pp.

Banfield, A.W.F. 1974. The Mammals of Canada. University of Toronto Press.

Block, S.B. and Zimmerman, E.G. 1991. Allozymic variation and systematics of plains pocket gophers (Geomys) of south-central Texas. Southwestern Naturalist 36: 29-36.

Burns, J. C., Choate, J. R. and Zimmerman, E. G. 1985. Systematic relationships of pocket gophers (genus Geomys) onthe Central Great Plains. Journal of Mammalogy 66: 102-118.

Elrod, D. A., Zimmerman, E. G., Sudman, P. D. and Heidt, G. A. 2000. A new subspecies of pocket gopher (genus Geomys) from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas with comments on its historical biogeography. Journal of Mammalogy 81: 852-864.

Heaney, L. R. and Timm, R. M. 1983. Relationships of pocket gophers of the genus Geomys from the central and northern Great Plains. University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publications 74: 59.

Heaney, L. R. and Timm, R. M. 1985. Morphology, genetics,and ecology of pocket gophers (genus Geomys) in a narrow hybrid zone. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 25: 301-317.

Huntly, N. and Inouye, R. 1988. Pocket gophers in ecosystems: patterns and mechanisms. BioScience 38: 386-793.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

IUCN. 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-1. Available at: (Accessed: 27 April 2017).

Jolley, T.W., Honeycutt, R.L. and Bradley, R.D. 2000. Phylogenetic relationships of pocket gophers (genus Geomys) based on the mitochondrial 12s rRNA gene. Journal of Mammalogy 81: 1025-1034.

Pacifici, M., Santini, L., Di Marco, M., Baisero, D., Francucci, L., Grottolo Marasini, G., Visconti, P. and Rondinini, C. 2013. Generation length for mammals. Nature Conservation 5: 87–94.

Patton, J.L. 2005. Family Geomyidae. In: D.E. Wilson and D.M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World, pp. 859-871. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.

Wilson, D.E. and Ruff, S. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Citation: Cassola, F. 2016. Geomys bursarius (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T42588A115192675. . Downloaded on 27 May 2018.
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