Gophers vs. Groundhogs: Similairites and Differences

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When there is a little fuzzy beast raiding your lawn and burrowing through your garden, there are chances you have gophers or groundhogs visiting you, since they are the two most common pests spotted in these places.  

But gophers and groundhogs are commonly mistaken for each other as they are both woodland rodents that look quite similar; however, there are many distinct differences between gophers and groundhogs.

In this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about them, from what sets them apart to their life span, etc.

Gophers vs. Groundhogs

It’s easy to confuse gophers and groundhogs — both are hairy, brown rodents that like to burrow and dig holes. 

But upon closer examination, marked differences in their appearance, habitat, etc. become quite apparent. While their geographic locations might overlap, groundhogs and gophers differ in many ways.

difference between groundhogs and gophers

 For example, gophers grow up to 15cm in length and are smaller than groundhogs, which can grow to be as long as 63cm.

Another important feature of the gophers that sets them apart is their cheeks. As their name ‘gopher’ itself implies, they have fur-rim cheeks which are utilized as pockets to hold both nesting materials and food.

Many such major differences will be further discussed below.

Difference Between Gophers and Groundhogs

Here we will cover the major differences between gophers and groundhogs that are noticeable and set them apart from each other.

gophers vs groundhogs

Appearance of Gophers and Groundhogs


A fully grown groundhog weighs around 4 to 14 pounds which is much larger than a gopher, so the difference in their size is the first mark of recognition which will help you recognize the type of pest burrowing in your garden.

Groundhog’s teeth are normally white and not visible unless their mouth is open which is another major distinct feature since gophers have protruding yellowish teeth

Groundhog tails are short and covered in thick, coarser fur that is usually brown or rust-colored. They have black/brown feet.


There are more than a hundred species of gophers, and that includes the pocket gopher which is known as the “true” gopher.

They are tiny and weigh only 230 grams with the length of 15 inches and their color ranges from dark black to brown

Many gophers have pink feet which are shaped like a squirrel’s and their tails are hairless and brown in color

They have protruding brownish/yellow teeth and cheeks which are fur-lined which is used for storing food- all traits that make them stand apart from groundhogs.

Depending on the specie, a gopher may have spots, stripes, or other distinct markings

Eating Habits of Gophers and Groundhogs


Groundhogs are mostly herbivores and depend upon typical garden crops for survival like carrots, beans, cherries, apples, etc.

Although they are vegetarians, their diet sometimes also consists of insects like snails, earthworms, etc. and bird’s eggs.

They can around 1.5 pounds of vegetation a day, and will munch on almost anything; from all kinds of flowers and bulbs, vegetables, etc.

Unlike gophers that rarely come out of their burrows, groundhogs spend a lot of time above the ground eating the fruits and vegetables of the plants.


As mentioned above, gophers rarely come out of their burrows; to survive they eat the underground parts of plants, like the roots and tubers.

Gophers attack the gardens from below, munching on the roots of shrubs, plants, and vegetables. Radishes and carrots, in particular, are one of the favorites of the gophers

They will often gnaw and bite at the roots, and swell up the pouches in their mouths by filling it up. They store extra food in the tunnel they dig.

Life Span of Gophers and Groundhogs


Groundhogs can live up to six years with an average of two to three years. In captivity however, they can live up to 14 years.

Groundhogs hibernate during winter; by scurrying into their burrows and curling up into a state of sleep 

They mate numerable times each year and can create as many as nine litters.


The average lifespan of Gophers is 1-3 years and the maximum lifespan is about five years.

Unlike groundhogs, who hibernate in winter, gophers remain active all throughout the year.

Depending on the species, gophers may have a specific breeding season and each litter mainly consists of two to five young, 

Final Words

Although there are many differences between them, they are both known for their burrowing capabilities and can wreak havoc to yards and gardens.

Also, homeowners witness more of groundhogs on the surface because gophers usually spend their time underground.

However, the biggest trademark for gophers is their outjutting teeth and their large cheek pockets that make them stand out and easier to differentiate from groundhogs.

Now if you are tired of reading the words ‘gophers’ and ‘groundhogs’ again and again, here is something different for you- Groundhogs have plenty of other nicknames like ‘woodchuck ‘and ‘whistle-pig’, while gophers are also called as ‘bitter moniker’.

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