Gophers and moles are burrowing creatures that fall under the category of mid-sized rodents. They are mostly known for digging up small holes and hills in people’s backyards. When such a thing happens out of the blue, identifying the culprit is important. In this situation, understanding the differences between gophers and moles in terms of appearance, behaviour, and lifestyle can prove to be useful.
- Gophers belong to the Geomyidae family, while moles are members of the Talpidae family.
- Gophers create complex, visible tunnel systems and feed on plant roots, while moles construct deeper, less visible tunnels and consume insects.
- Gophers have large, strong front teeth for gnawing, whereas moles possess broad, shovel-like front paws for digging.
Gopher vs Mole
The difference between gopher and mole is that gophers are larger in size, which is why their tunnels also tend to be wide, whereas moles are somewhat the size of a human thumb, and their tunnels are relatively small and narrow. Moreover, gopher tunnels extend up to 6 feet below the ground, whereas mole tunnels only extend up to 3 feet.
Gophers are rodents that are natively from North and Central America. In total, they can be found in 35 species. A fully grown gopher is 6 to 8 inches long and can weigh up to 200g. The males tend to be larger than the females. These rodents have a lifespan of around three years. However, some species are known to live up to even seven years.
Meanwhile, moles are subterranean rodents that are most commonly found in Europe, Asia and North America. They grow up to be 4 to 6 inches long and weigh anywhere between 70 to 125 grams. Their most distinguishable characteristic is their short and reduced limbs. They have a lifespan of around 6 years.
|Parameters of Comparison
|Gophers are found in parts of North and Central America.
|Moles are found in Europe, Asia, and parts of North America.
|They live in grasslands, forests, gardens, and even urban areas.
|They have a similar habitat as gophers but are also found in sand dunes.
|They can grow up to be 6 to 8 inches long.
|They can grow up to be 4 to 6 inches long.
|They weigh around 200 grams.
|They can weigh anywhere between 70 to 124 grams.
|They live up to 3 years.
|They live for around 6 years.
|They are herbivores that eat vegetables, shrubs, and roots.
|They are carnivores and eat grubs, insects, and worms.
|They live alone in separate burrows.
|They live alone but their burrows are connected.
|They have wide tunnels that can extend up to 6 feet below ground level.
|They have relatively narrower tunnels that can extend up to 3 feet below ground level.
|Their mounds are in the shape of a cone.
|Their mounds are in the shape of a crescent.
What is Gopher?
A gopher is a rodent that can be most commonly identified by the burrows that it makes. It is found in around 35 species and is native to North and Central America. Generally, they go by the name ‘pocket gophers.’ Their body can grow up to 6 to 8 inches in length, and they can weigh around 200 grams in their prime years.
The fur of these subterranean mammals is brown in colour, like soil. They have cheek pouches that are also covered in fur and can be inverted. Their eyes are considerably small. They have a short and hairy tails through which they feel the periphery of a tunnel. This helps them move backwards.
The system of tunnels in which they live acts as a protective home in which they hide from predators, including snakes, hawks, and weasels. However, their fur can be covered by parasitic creatures. Regardless, these burrows also give them a place to hoard food, which they carry back in their cheek pouches.
Their diet is entirely vegetarian. They are known to enjoy vegetables like carrots and lettuce. Apart from that, they also eat roots and shrubs. Interestingly, the food that decays in their burrows when hoarded helps in making fertile soil.
What is Mole?
A mole is a relatively smaller rodent that is characterized by its protruding limbs. It is found in almost every part of the world except snowy areas. When fully grown, its measures around 4 to 6 inches in length and weighs anywhere between 70 to 125 pounds.
These rodents have a fur coat with a very velvety texture, which is not commonly found in other rodents. Historically, people from many parts of the world used to make pelts from their skin. Regardless, moles are known to be able to survive in places with less oxygen. This helps them live in their burrows for long durations.
Moles have a carnivorous diet. They do not eat vegetables or roots at all. Their food mainly consists of earthworms. However, due to this, they lead to a decrease in soil fertility wherever they live.
An interesting fact about these creatures is that they have an extra thumb. This helps them dig holes in a much more efficient manner. Most of the time, the tunnels of different moles are connected to each other. However, they are known to be highly territorial. They only meet other females during mating season. If they come across a male mole, a huge fight breaks out between them.
Main Differences Between Gopher and Mole
- Gophers are found in parts of North and Central America, whereas moles are found in Europe, Asia, and parts of North America.
- Gophers do not live on sand dunes, whereas moles do.
- Gophers can grow up to be 6 to 8 inches long, whereas moles can grow up to be 4 to 6 inches long.
- Gophers weigh around 200 grams, whereas moles weigh anywhere between 70 and 124 grams.
- Gophers live up to 3 years, whereas moles live for around 6 years.
- Gophers are herbivores, whereas moles are carnivores.
- Gophers live in separate burrows, whereas the burrows of moles are connected.
- Gophers have wide tunnels that can extend up to 6 feet below ground level, whereas moles have relatively narrower tunnels that can extend up to 3 feet below ground level.
- The mounds of a gopher’s burrow are in the shape of a cone, whereas that of a moles burrow is in the shape of a crescent.
Last Updated : 11 June, 2023
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.