The Northern Pocket Gopher
The Northern Pocket Gopher does not hibernate, so they are active all winter. This gopher is not often sighted, but their habitation is evident from the mounds of loose earth that they push to the surface. Tunnel entrances are generally covered by an earth mound or a soil plug.
Pocket gophers are generally confused with moles. Insect-eating moles are not present in Alberta. Pocket gophers are vegetation consuming, burrowing rodents that get their name from the fur-lined external cheek pouches, or pockets, that they use for carrying food and nesting materials.
An unusual feature is that the pocket gopher’s lips can close behind the four large incisor teeth to keep dirt out of its mouth when the pocket gopher uses its teeth for digging.
Mounds of fresh soil are the best sign of pocket gophers presence. Mounds are formed as the pocket gopher digs its tunnel and pushes the loose dirt to the surface. Typically, mounds are kidney-shaped when viewed from above. The hole, which is off to one side of the mound, is usually plugged.
One pocket gopher may create several mounds in a day. In non-irrigated areas, mound building is most pronounced during spring or fall when the soil is moist and easy to dig. In irrigated areas such as lawns, flower beds and gardens, digging conditions are usually optimal year round and mounds can appear at any time. In snowy regions, pocket gophers create burrows in the snow, resulting in long, earthen cores on the surface when the snow melts.
The Richardson Ground Squirrel
The Richardson’s Ground Squirrel, commonly called the gopher, prairie gopher is a burrowing rodent that lives in regions throughout Alberta. Gophers are a problem because of the damage that can be caused by their burrowing habit. They are very similar in appearance to the Prairie Dog; the most separating feature being the Richardson’s Ground Squirrel’s smaller overall size. They are normally a dark brown to buff yellow in color on their topside with a tan underbelly that displays some red highlighting.
In Southern Alberta, adult male Richardson’s ground squirrels emerge from hibernation in mid- to late February. The majority of adult female Richardson’s ground squirrels emerge from hibernation in early to mid March, about two weeks after the emergence of males. Females give birth in an underground chamber in late March to early April, and litters first appear above ground from late April to early May.
Adult male ground squirrels enter hibernation from late May to early June, and adult females emerge from late June to early July. Juvenile females enter hibernation next from early to mid-August. Juvenile male ground squirrels remain active until mid-September to October.
Female Richardson’s ground squirrels produce a single litter each year, Litter size at birth is usually 6 to 8 young, but extremes of 4 to 14 have been noted.
The meadow vole is a rodent that spends most of its time outside in meadows, grassy marshes and along rivers and lakes. The major problem with meadow voles is the damage they do to trees and grass. This normally occurs in new suburban housing tracts, commercial and manufacturing parks and orchards. The bark is normally only eaten off trees and shrubs in the winter when other food is scarce.
Voles are heavy set rodents with small eyes and have greyish-brown fur. They can injure trees and shrubs by girdling roots and stems. They also feed on ground bulbs or exposed roots of older trees. They breed all year round with March through November being the main breeding season. The number of young in a litter varies from two to nine with six or seven as the most common litter size.
Signs of voles are runways in your lawn. Their feces, chewed fruit etc.. Voles are mainly nocturnal in the summer, but will be active during the day in the winter when they tunnel underneath the snow.
Tips- Mowing your lawn will reduce the chances of vole invasion since they prefer tall grass as ideal habitat.