The squirrel family is very cute animals – gophers. These are small rodents, the length of the body is about 15-35 centimeters. There are also especially large representatives who grow up to 40 centimeters. The weight of this mammal is from 190 grams to 1.5 kilograms. Males always grow larger than females. There are gophers with the most diverse color of wool: sand, brown, brownish-green, with many spots or strips of light or dark color. Unlike in winter, when the fur of an animal is fluffy, dense and soft, in the summer it becomes stiff, short and rare. The shape of the head is slightly elongated. The eyes are small, but with enlarged lacrimal glands, due to which the liquid is produced abundantly, washing eyes from the ground and dust. Ears are short, roundish and slightly protruding from the fur. Gophers have particularly sharp claws on the front paws and teeth, thanks to the special structure of which the animal can pull out long tunnels without eating the ground.
Gophers live in underground burrows in small groups of about 20-30 individuals. Near the settlement there are always “watch” a few watch ground squirrels, the posture of which resembles a rack. When approaching danger, they give an alarm: a sound similar to whistling or squeaking. After this signal, all the tribesmen hiding in the holes immediately.
Each gopher independently builds a mink, digging a tunnel up to 15 meters at a depth of 1.5 to 7 meters. An interesting fact is that in the place where the “family” of gophers live, there are several types of minks and each has its own purpose. For example, they dig burrows for the protection of the settlement, for the birth of offspring (summer burrows), for hibernation (winter burrows).
Since the beginning of autumn gophers are preparing for hibernation in their winter “houses.” Its duration is from five to six to nine months. To ensure that during this period no one disturbs the sleeping family in the burrow, rodents close the access to it with original “doors” made of grass and stones. Before hibernation, animals begin to actively eat and store fat, due to which their body feeds during prolonged sleep. A feature of gophers is the ability to hibernate not only in winter, but also at any other time of the year, provided there is no food, for example, during a prolonged drought. Gopher’s sleep during hibernation is considered to be one of the strongest in the animal world.
They eat rodents of plants that are found near their burrows. It can be wheat grass, wormwood, sunflowers, wheat. Also eat small insects: locusts, beetles, midges, larvae of caterpillars. And sometimes do not mind eating and bird eggs. Many representatives of gophers make food reserves in the mink. They bring it in wonderfully developed cheek pouches, containing an impressive amount of food.
After hibernation the animal wakes up exhausted and hungry, so immediately goes in search of food. Restoring strength, marmot begin to look for a pair for mating. These animals are able to remain faithful to partners for several years. Most gophers breed once a year, there are individuals that bring offspring and several times in the same period. The toddler nurses about 30 days. At one time, eight to twelve cubs can be born. At birth, babies are completely naked and blind, but after a week they are covered with fluffy fur, and after fourteen days they begin to see. The first months of the gopher progeny feed on mother’s milk. During this period, the female protects the burrow from attacking “uninvited guests”. In the period while the crumbs grow and gain strength, a caring mother for each of the children can prepare a mink. To an independent life a new offspring is ready in 4-6 months. Gophers live from one year to three years. Rarely are there long-livers at the age of eight.