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Gophers are members of the squirrel family, forming 10 separate species. They pose a serious threat to farms in the steppe regions of the country..
Due to active reproduction, these rodents are widespread throughout Russia.
Appearance, description and reproduction
The length of the animal's body is approximately 30-35 cm, the tail makes up 30% of the total body length.
The back color is dark, golden brown with whitish streaks and spots. Cheeks and eyes have rusty brown spots... Head and chest with a silvery sheen.
Most of the body is covered with small specks.
REFERENCE... The gopher family prefers to settle in the steppe regions, preferring cereal and forb plains. Also often found in forest-steppes and southern woodlands.
The main habitats are steppe farmland with perennial crops. Gophers constantly live in the field, less often they are found along roadsides, in gullies and at the edge of the forest.
Some species are nomadic, moving through the fields. Rodents arrange their homes in burrows, which can be temporary or permanent.
Adults mostly live alone, in separate burrows... Animals arrange special nests there, lining it with grass, straw and small twigs.
REFERENCE... The gopher sleeps in winter, its hibernation lasts from 7 to 9 months. Under unfavorable conditions during the cold period, they can often wake up.
The breeding season begins in the spring when the animals wake up from hibernation. A female gopher can give birth from 5 to 10 cubs... Within 1-2 months, young gophers become independent.
Distribution in Russia
They are widespread in many regions, especially in the Lower Volga region, Orenburg region, Ciscaucasia, Yakutia, in the regions of Western and Eastern Siberia.
The spreading density is very uneven, especially many rodents in the Volga region... During the development of virgin lands, they actively developed new territories.
Gophers pose a great threat to farm agricultural land and are actively combated. However, these are not the only pests that can seriously harm the crop.
We have prepared for you a series of articles about such of them: shrews, moles, mice and wild rats.
What it eats and its role in the food chain
Gophers feed predominantly vegetable foodeating large quantities of crops and wild plants. Various parts of plants are destroyed at all stages of its development: sown seeds, young shoots, stems, leaves, flowers.
But most of all like to eat gophers ripe grains of cultivated cerealssuch as corn, millet, wheat and peas. In nature, the number of rodents is regulated by local predators: foxes and ferrets. Hunting for the steppe gopher, or rather its cubs, is carried out by crows and hawks.
Types of gophers with photos
IMPORTANT! One gopher can consume up to 50 grams of grain per day. With an average population density per hectare, you can lose up to 45 kg of yield.
The greatest harm to agriculture is caused by six species:
Small gopher... It is very widespread in the Foothills of the Caucasus, the Lower Volga region and in the regions of Siberia.
Lesser ground squirrel or Spermophilus pygmaeus
Speckled gopher... Occurs in the Central Chernozem regions.
Speckled ground squirrel or Spermophilus suslicus
Red-cheeked... Mostly distributed in the steppes and foothills of Altai, in Western Siberia.
Red-cheeked ground squirrel or Spermophilus erythrogenys
Long-tailed gopher... Distributed in Western Siberia and Yakutia.
Long-tailed ground squirrel or Urocitellus undulatus
Reddish gopher... Inhabits some areas of Bashkiria, Trans-Volga and Western Siberia.
Reddish ground squirrel or Spermophilus major
Yellow gopher... Occurs in the regions of the Lower Volga region.
Yellow ground squirrel or Spermophilus fulvus
A distinctive feature from other rodents are large cheek pouches, in which the animals can carry large amounts of food.
They also have a pair of yellowish-brown incisors that need to be constantly ground down. These animals also differ in that they are capable hibernate for a very long period.
Harm to farms
Gophers are polyphagous animals, which means capable of damaging a wide variety of crops... These animals inflict the greatest harm on grain, eating both green crops and grains in an ear. As a result of such feeding, bald patches are formed around the gopher holes, with a large population, the eaten places are connected to each other and the crops can be completely destroyed.
Ground squirrels inflict no less harm on corn crops, they dig up germinating seeds, thereby significantly thinning the crops. Also, on emerging plants, they eat up the first tender leaves, and the remaining stumps either completely die or develop very weakly.
In addition to eating green mass, harm is also done when digging holes, when a large amount of soil is thrown onto the surface, thereby making it difficult to harvest. On pastures, 20-30 individuals per hectare are capable of destroying more than half of the food supply. Newly sown forest belts also suffer from them.... On them, gophers dig up and eat seeds of various tree species.
In one season, one gopher is able to eat 4 kg of grain. With a population of 10 individuals per hectare, 40 kg of grain will be lost from each.
It should be noted that not only mammals are capable of causing significant damage to farmers, summer residents and gardeners. Pest insects are no less dangerous.
We have prepared for you a series of materials about the most ruthless of them. Read everything about the bear, the Colorado potato beetle and the locust.
Ways to fight
To combat gophers, several methods are used:
- Poisoned baits. Oat or corn kernels are soaked and treated with zinc phosphide. The grains are then scattered by hand, by automobiles or aircraft, near large concentrations of animal settlements. In this case, all safety rules must be strictly observed.
IMPORTANT. The grain for the bait must be of good quality, free of impurities and foreign odors.
- Gasification of burrows. This method is complicated and quite costly. It should be used in areas where it is impossible to apply the seed method of destruction.
- Catching with traps. This method is used on the outskirts of crops, near roads. Arc traps No. 0 and No. 1 are used. This method is especially effective in the spring before the appearance of the young.
Attention! Gophers carry the plague and other infectious diseases, and it is possible to become infected both through direct contact with the animal, and through the bites of fleas that inhabit them.
A very interesting video about what a speckled gopher looks like in the steppe:
Many species of ground squirrels cause great harm to agriculture, destroying crops and pastures. Dealing with them is challenging for farmers.