Botta's Pocket Gopher, Thomomys bottae, is one of hundreds of different kinds of Gopher living in the United States. He is the one we think that we have here in The Sea Ranch. (He is not related to Point Arena's celebrity, Mountain Beaver.) Here in the Ranch, Gopher does his underground construction all over the place. As you walk our trails you will find evidence of his activities in the small mounds of freshly turned earth and the occasional open hole. He is a cute little fellow (if you are not a gardner or a golf course grounds keeper) and causes us very little trouble, because he is herbivorous. Quite the contrary, he is a principal source of nourishment for our raptors and he aerates our soil.

We've never been inside his burrow, but the scientists tell us that it can be quite extensive. Some tunnel complexes can run more than four hundred feet. Gopher builds storage chambers in it and stores quite a bit of food there. Sometimes he pulls entire plants by their roots down into the complex for consumption at his convenience. Other times he bites off chunks of vegetation, stores it temporarily in his large cheek pouches (hence "Pocket" Gopher) and carries it to his larder. When you see how many hawks we have you will understand why he tries hard to stay underground as much as he can. About the only time that you will see him is when he is pushing dirt up out of his burrow and then it will only be a brief glimpse of his nose and maybe an eye.



If our identification is correct, our little bundle of activity is named after a very famous world traveller - Paul Emilliano Botta. The usual explanation is that Botta was a famous nineteenth century naturalist that collected animals, but we suspect that there might have been some innuendo intended in giving Botta's name to Gopher. Botta did in fact collect plants and animals in strange parts of the world, but he also is said to have "acquired" important antiquities from ancient cultures for display in the major capitals of Europe. In a very real sense, he acted as Gopher for those in the French Government that wanted trophies for the Louvre. If that was not intended when his name was given to Gopher it is ironic instead.

Gopher is more famous than you might think. Noah's Arc was built of Gopher Wood. Minnesota is known as the Gopher State and the mascot of the University of Minnesota is the Gopher. In the late nineteenth century one of New York's more important Irish street gangs was called the Gophers. You are obviously reading this account on the internet. If you are sufficiently long in the tooth (Gopher's teeth continue to grow as long as he lives) you may remember that one of the ancestors of the modern world wide web (the "www" in the urls that we use today) was the Gopher Protocol (which was developed at the University of Minnesota). It may be old hat now, but it was a major, major development back in ancient times (1991).

Remember that you are a Gopher every time that you go pher something.