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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Soil-moisture preferences and soil-use behaviors of Northern pocket gophers


Factors affecting soil-contact and -manipulation behaviors of pocket gophers (Thomomys and Geomys spp.) are poorly understood. Delineation of these behaviors is crucial to development of new repellent systems that seek to exploit the fossorial activity of these rodents. In a laboratory study involving northern pocket gophers (Thomomys talpoides), I examined the effects(s) of gravimetric soil moisture (i.e., 0%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, and 25%) upon soil-contact and -use behaviors. Six gophers received successive, 0.5 h/day exposures to one of the moist soils compared to dry (0%) soil in a 2-choice apparatus. Times in each compartment and observed behaviors were recorded. A chamber × moisture interaction was attributed to the avoidance of 25% moist soil. A qualitative description of 37 locomotor, postural, sniffing, grooming, feeding, and soil-manipulation responses is provided.

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