Difference Between a Gopher and a Woodchuck (With Table)

Rodents are mammals that have a single pair of incisors growing continuously. These incisors can be in the upper or lower jaw. On our planet, almost 40% of mammals come under the order of Rodentia.

Rodents can be found anywhere on earth except for Antarctica, New Zealand and some of the oceanic countries. They are very diverse and can be found in terrestrial inhabitants. Even the habitats made by humans, rodents can be found there also. Examples of rodents include rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, mice, beavers, guinea pigs, and hamsters. Gopher and Woodchuck also belong to this category.

Gopher vs Woodchuck

The difference between a gopher and a woodchuck is that a gopher is very smaller and lighter in size and weight. While a woodchuck is a large and heavier mammal. Gopher has yellowish teeth, and it can be seen even if their mouth is closed. While a woodchuck has white teeth. And it can be seen only when it opens its mouth. A Gopher has a tail that resembles a rat. Whereas a woodchuck tail is furry.

A Gopher is simply referred to as a pocket gopher. Because they live in small burrows. They belong to the category of Rodents. Gophers are native to Central and North America. Gophers are endemic, which means they are found in the regions of America only. Gophers are known for their digging and tunnelling activities. They can also destroy the gardens and farms with their sharp incisors. Gophers belong to the family of Geomyidae. Sometimes, ground squirrels are also called gophers because they are a distant relative of them.

A Woodchuck is a rodent that belongs to the family of Sciuridae. Its scientific name is Marmota monax. Because it belongs to the group of large ground squirrels called Marmots. Woodchuck is also known by the name groundhogs. Woodchucks are mainly found in Canada, Alaska and the eastern United States. Woodchuck has been given many names because of its characteristics like chuck, whistler, thick wood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, red monk, land beaver wood-shock, ground pig, whistle pig etc. It is a lowland animal having a large belly and lives in mountainous regions.

Comparison Table Between a Gopher and a Woodchuck

Parameters of Comparison Gopher Woodchuck
FamilyGeomyidaeSciuridae
Species35 speciesMarmota monax
CharacteristicsHas fur-lined cheek pockets.Has a transient leg and a thick physique. 
TailRat likeFurry
TeethYellowWhite
Weight200-250 g2-7 kg
FeetPinkBlack or Dark Brown
NutritionOmnivoresHerbivores

What is a Gopher?

Gopher is a very small creature that weighs around 200-230 grams. The length of their body is 15-20 cm. Some of the gophers may reach the weight of 1 kg. Their tail is rat-like and is 2.5-5 cm long. Male Gophers are larger than female gophers. In terms of weight, males may be heavier. The lifespan of a gopher is one to three years. On average, a pocket gopher may live up to five years. The fur of the gopher is brown, and it resembles soil very much. So they can hide easily. One of the main characteristics of gophers is that they have a very large cheek pocket, and the name pocket gopher is derived from it.

Pouches of gophers are lined with fur. It can be turned inside out and can also be extended. Gophers fur extends from the side of the mouth to its shoulders on the back. They have very small eyes, and their tail which is hairy, helps them to feel the surroundings when they walk inside the tunnel or backwards. They are omnivorous and feed on external parasites. Predators that feed on gophers include weasels, snakes, and hawks. 

Gophers inside the tunnel creates a network so that they can easily collect the food. Large hoarders and their cheek pockets help gophers to transport their food back to burrows safely. Gofers doesn’t live in large communities and can sometimes be found to be living above the ground. They are known for destroying the lawns, gardens and farms. Outside the breeding season, they live alone. Each gofer has its tunnel. If attacked, they might leave their tunnel or can cause serious bites to humans and animals.

What is a Woodchuck?

A woodchuck is considered as one of the largest animals in its species of squirrels i.e. Sciuridae. Except for British Columbia, woodchucks are found in large sizes. The length of a woodchuck may vary from 41 to 68 cm in length. The tail can measure from 9 to 19 cm in length. The weight of a woodchuck may vary from 2 to 6 kgs. Like gofers, male woodchucks are heavier and larger as compared to female woodchucks. They are also called groundhogs. The weight of male woodchucks is more during the autumn season than in the hibernation period or spring.

This happens because of the deposition and use of fats according to different seasons. When groundhogs are young i.e. between one to first to third years, they grow enormously, and after the fourth year, they biome plateaus. Woodchucks have large incisors teeth that are four in number, and it grows 1.5mm every week. Their teeth are white to ivory-white. Because of constant usage, woodchuck’s teeth wear down easily. Its characteristics include digging, with short, thick claws, powerful limbs and curves. 

The tail of the woodchuck is furry and smaller in length. It is one-fourth of their body size. The term ‘woodchuck has come from the indigenous language Algonquian. Woodchucks live in open surroundings like woodlands, unlike gofers. Its geographical range is very wide-ranging from low-elevation forests, small woodlots, fields, pastures and hedgerows. It also constructs dens in both summer and wintertime. They can live from 6 to 14 years. They are herbivorous and feed on vegetation and wild grass.

Main Differences Between a Gofer and a Woodchuck

  1. A Gofer belongs to the family of Geomyidae. A Woodchuck belongs to the family of Sciuridae.
  2. Gofer has 35 species classified into 5 genera. The species of the woodchuck is Marmota monax.
  3. Gofer has fur-lined cheek pockets. Woodchuck has a transient leg and a thick physique. 
  4. The tail of a gofer is rat-like. The tail of a woodchuck is furry.
  5. Gofer has yellowish to brown protruding teeth. Woodchuck has white to ivory white teeth.
  6. The weight of a gofer is 200-230 g. The weight of a woodchuck is 2-7 kgs.
  7. Gofer has a pink colour foot. Woodchuck has black or dark brown feet.
  8. Gofers are omnivorous. Woodchucks are herbivorous.

Conclusion

Both Gopher and Woodchuck belong to the order of Rodents. Both are mammals that have sharp incisors to chew the food and help them in digging. Both have fur that is brown. Both of the species closely resemble squirrels. Both hibernate during the winters.

Both of the male species are usually larger and heavier than their female counterparts. Gophers has a fur-lined pouch. While a woodchuck has red-brown fur. Gophers produces very much litter in a year. While woodchuck produces less litter in comparison to gofers. Both of them have a different body structure which makes them unique.

References

  1. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/271458
  2. https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article-abstract/75/3/775/887169
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