What Is the Difference Between a Gopher and a Groundhog? | Comparing Every Side

You are probably curious about the distinctions between groundhogs and gophers if you are here. These two common home pests have different species compositions.

So what’s the difference between a groundhog and a gopher?

All these animals are rodents. Some are squirrel-like Sciuridae and beaver-like Geomyidae.

What Is the Difference Between a Gopher and a Groundhog

Groundhog is ground-dwelling marmots. Gopher has big, robust bodies, flat skulls, and sharp claws.

About 15 kinds of marmots live in mountainous regions. The North American groundhog dwells in lowlands, meadows, and grasslands.

To help you identify groundhogs and gophers differently, this article will go through their most distinguishing features. Soon, you will be able to distinguish between such two rodents and many more. Let’s Begin!

What is a Gopher?

A member of the family Geomyidae, the gopher, is the smallest of the rodents. There are over 35 gopher species, which may be broken into five different genera.

The Gopher, Is the Smallest of the Rodents

They share a phylogenetic tree with kangaroo rats, kangaroo mice, and pocket mice. The majority of gophers have a brownish tint with pinkish feet. Unlike humans, they have hairless tails.

Also, gophers have brown to yellow teeth with big incisors that stick out of the mouth. Gophers have specially designed front feet for digging. They have strong grasping abilities as well.

The combined surface area of all the gopher mounds in their tunnel networks might range from 200 to 2,000 square feet. Because of the fur-lined cheek pouches they use to store food and nesting materials, gophers are often called “pocket gophers.”

Groundhogs have adapted to life underground and depend mostly on touch to go through their complex system of tunnels. They have tiny eyes, ears, and delicate hair and utilize whiskers and tails to move.

Gophers are herbivores that eat different kinds of vegetation. They like to live underground where it is cool and dark, where they may dig for roots to eat.

Gophers Are Herbivores That Eat Different Kinds of Vegetation

However, they sometimes leave their tunnel networks to forage for food at distances no greater than their bodies. It is not uncommon for them to mistake garden vegetables, vines, and decorative plants for the actual thing and eat them.

Gopher Classification

A wide variety of gophers exist. The United States is home to 13 different gopher species, which may be broken into three different genera. 

The United States Is Home to 13 Different Gopher Species

To determine which genus a gopher belongs to, we look at its forefeet, claws, and incisors. There are primarily three types of gophers, and they are as follows:

Thomomys, or Western Pocket Gophers, are endemic to the Americas and nowhere else. The length of these gophers varies from 5 inches to 13 and a half inches. They have various shades of brown, black, and even near-white fur.

Two grooves mark each upper incisor of an Eastern Pocket Gopher (Geomys). These animals may be anywhere from 7 1/2 to 14.0 inches long, and their fur can be any shade of brown or even virtually black. Their forefeet and claws are likewise rather huge.

Pappogeomys, like Geomys, have big toes and claws on their forefeet, but instead of two grooves on each upper incisor, they have only one. In this set, the lengths are between 7 and 5 1/2 inches. Underfur may be either white or yellow, while the topcoat can range from a rusty brown to a bright yellow.

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Gopher Life Span

In contrast to most mammals, gophers never sleep and are always busy. The surface is uncommon, and tunnel development may cease or stall during winter.

Gophers Can Live One to Three Years

Late winter through early spring is the mating season. Gophers have anywhere from one to three litters yearly, with an average of five to six offspring each.

Only a mother gopher with her offspring will be found in a group. After reaching sexual maturity at about a year of age, the young will set up their territories.

Depending on the species and the locality, there might be as many as sixty gophers might share one acre of ground. Gophers can live for up to three years.


The groundhog is another member of the marmot family of rodents. 

Another name for it is woodchuck (Marmota monax). The outer coat of fur may be any of several brown tones.

Additionally, they have a deep, gray undercoat. In contrast, the groundhog has a short, completely furred tail.

Even more so, when a groundhog’s mouth is closed, its white teeth are hidden. Most noticeably, groundhogs can climb tree trunks successfully.


In addition, groundhogs tend to be outside in the open more often. They do not use actual bedrooms so much as dens or simple tunnels.

The seasons need different dens, so they have two. In contrast, groundhogs do not use their burrows as storage facilities for food. During the summer, they gorge themselves, and some may even be active.

There is some variation in groundhog lifespan, although on average they live for around two to three years. They say that groundhogs may live up to 14 years in captivity.

What Is the Difference Between a Gopher and a Groundhog

Gophers and groundhogs are both deceptively cute forest rodents that eat plants.

If you are a nature geek, a Golden Gophers fan, or considering a vacation to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you may want to know the difference.

Groundhogs and gophers have similar looks and digging activities but are unrelated. For instance, the Geomyidae comprises not just gophers but also kangaroo rats, pocket mice, and pocket gophers (sometimes called “real” gophers).

Groundhogs and Gophers Have Similar Looks and Digging Activities

While both rodents consume plants largely, gophers favor roots and tubers (to the chagrin of gardeners), while groundhogs appreciate foliage and fruits.

Blumstein adds groundhogs “hibernate in their subterranean burrows.” “During the day, they consume vegetation and return to their burrows.

They will burrow if it is too hot. During bad weather, they will retreat into their burrow.”

Groundhogs hibernate throughout the winter. Therefore gophers are not necessarily more reclusive. Gophers destroy lawns year-round.

Different Class

Gopher includes 35 rodent species in 5 genera. Gophers are in the suborder Castorimorpha as well as the family Geomyoidae. Pocket gophers are normal gophers.

Fourteen species of marmots include groundhogs. Groundhogs are Sciuromorpha, and Sciuridae, like squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs. The largest squirrels are groundhogs. Woodchucks are the most prevalent groundhogs (Marmota monax).


Groundhogs Are 15-20 Inches Long, Whereas Gophers Are 4-8 Inches

Size is a distinction between groundhogs and gophers. You can differentiate a groundhog from a gopher by its length and weight.

Groundhogs are 15-20 inches long, whereas gophers are 4-8 inches.

Even a young groundhog is bigger than a gopher. You can tell them apart without seeing them side by side.


Another distinction between them is species. Despite belonging to identical families and species, gophers and groundhogs are in different families.

Groundhogs are marmots, whereas gophers are tiny rodents like rats and mice. Fewer marmot species make the family distinctions between such two rodents more visible.

Groundhog Species


A groundhog and a gopher are distinguishable based on their general look. This is another distinguishing feature that will help you determine which rodent is. Let us discuss a few of these key distinctions right now.

Groundhog and Gopher Are Distinguishable Based on Their Look

The size disparity between groundhogs and gophers should provide a hint. While groundhogs have slimmer features, gophers have prominent cheek pouches for storing food.

Their fur’s general hues are very similar, but their differences lie in the details of their toes.

In contrast to the pink legs of gophers, groundhogs keep the same fur color on their feet. In addition, these rodents have very distinct tails.

The teeth are the ultimate distinguishing feature of these two species. All rodents need to wear down their teeth, but groundhogs’ are not apparent.

Whereas groundhogs’ teeth are typically white when visible, gophers’ are frequently an alarming shade of yellow.


Besides the noticeable size difference between groundhogs and gophers, their relative hefts are another essential distinction. Gophers are little, seldom weighing more than a pound than groundhogs. However, groundhogs have been known to reach weights of over 10 pounds.

Groundhog Weight


Finally, their behaviors differ. Gophers and groundhogs have separate lives. Gophers dwell in complex tunnels and burrows underground. Groundhogs live aboveground unless they snooze or experience bad weather.

Gophers and groundhogs store and eat their food differently. Groundhogs consume as they find, whereas gophers stockpile. 

Separate Living Arrangements

We do not have groundhogs anywhere else than in North America. The woodchuck lives in the southern U.S., Alaska, and Labrador in Canada.

Gophers and Groundhogs Have Separate Lives

Most of a groundhog’s life is spent on the ground. Therefore it is common to see these animals in urban and suburban settings. Dens or basic tunnel systems excavated into the ground are where they spend the night. Typically, groundhogs will have two distinct burrows: one for the summer and one for the winter.

North and Central America are home to several different species of gopher. The intricate tunnel networks of gophers are built with great care.

Despite their solitary nature, gophers’ tunnels are commonly used by various species. Due to their preference for underground living, gophers like the plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius) are seldom seen.

Gopher Vs Groundhog

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is a Groundhog and Gopher the Same Thing?

The groundhog, often known as a woodchuck, is a common term. Although gophers and groundhogs are burrowing rodents common to North America, they are not the same species. In contrast to the gophers, which have specialized cheek pouches, groundhogs are bulkier and do not hibernate throughout the winter.

2. Are Gophers Good for Anything?

Their burrowing improves the soil because more air is introduced and less dirt is compacted. As they transport minerals to the surface, they may aid in developing new soil. They improve the soil’s absorption capacity.

3. How do I permanently get rid of gophers?

Castor oil may be mixed with water and sprayed into the tunnels of gophers to prevent them from entering or leaving the tunnels. To keep fish alive in the tunnels or to drop them inside, you may utilize scraped fish fins. To fill the tunnel openings with dryer sheets, just use some.

4. How Far Down Do Gophers Dig?

Each pocket gopher colony may have a tunnel system that spans 200 to 2,000 square feet. The diameter of the burrows ranges from 3.5 to 8.5 centimeters. Depending on the terrain, the nesting and storage chamber might be as deep as six feet below the earth.

Final Words

Now you get the notion of what is the difference between a gopher and a groundhog. The gopher is a small rodent of the Geomyidae native to North and Central America. Moreover, it has fur-covered cheek pockets to store food. It produces several litters per year. 

On the other hand, the groundhog is a comparatively larger and stockier rodent of the family Sciuridae. It has a furry tail. However, it produces a single litter per year. Therefore, the main difference between gopher and groundhog is their body structure.

Lisa G

Meet Lisa G, the founder and author of RodentsFact.com. With over 3 years of experience studying and observing various species of rodents. Lisa has established herself as a credible expert in the field. Her passion for these often-overlooked animals shines through in her in-depth articles and engaging writing style. Follow her blog to learn fascinating facts and gain a new appreciation for the furry creatures that share our world.

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