Prairie Dog vs Gopher Comparison

Prairie dog vs gopher, Which is your favorite? Prairie dogs and gophers are often mistaken for each other because they both live in burrows. They are small, furry, brown animals that love to dig.

However, there are significant differences between these two animals that should be noted before deciding which one is your favorite. So let’s look into the characteristics of prairie dogs and gophers and compare them side by side.

What is a Gopher?

Prairie Dog Vs Gopher

Gophers are rodents that belong to the family Geomyidae, there are over 38 species in the Geomyidaefamily. They’re typically 5 to 14 inches long and have strong front legs with long claws for digging complex tunnels underground.

Gophers spend most of their time in these underground burrows and only come to the surface to gather food during dawn or dusk.


What is a Prairie Dog?

Prairie Dog Vs Gopher
Prairie Dog

Prairie dogs are also rodents, but they’re in the Cynomys genus. They’re social and live in big groups called prairie dog towns. They make burrows like gophers, but theirs are more complex, with lots of ways in and out.

These burrows protect them from harsh weather and predators. Prairie dogs are smaller than gophers and have a unique ‘barking’ sound, which is how they got their name.


Are Prairie Dogs Safe?

Prairie dogs are usually safe animals and don’t directly threaten humans. However, they can carry diseases like the plague, which can spread to humans through fleas.

It’s important to avoid touching prairie dogs in areas where the plague is present. Also, their burrowing can harm crops and landscapes.


Read also: Know How To Get Rid Of Prairie Dogs


What Animal Hunts Prairie Dogs?

Many animals like coyotes, badgers, foxes, and birds of prey hunt prairie dogs. Coyotes are especially good at finding prairie dogs, using their keen senses to locate them underground or on the surface.

Badgers are also skilled at catching prairie dogs by digging into their burrows. Hawks and eagles hunt prairie dogs from above, they dive down to grab them with their claws.


Do Prairie Dogs Eat Meat?

Prairie dogs mostly eat plants like grass, roots, seeds, and other vegetation in their environment, so they’re mainly herbivores.

But sometimes, especially when plant food is scarce, they might eat insects like grasshoppers or even scavenged meat.

However, because plants make up the majority of their diet, they’re not classified as omnivorous.


Prairie Dog vs Gopher Differences

Size and Appearance:

  • Gophers are usually smaller, measuring about 5 to 14 inches long, while prairie dogs are larger, growing up to 14 to 17 inches long.
  • Gophers have sturdier, more compact body, while prairie dogs have a slender, elongated body.
  • Gophers have big, protruding front teeth that they use for digging, while prairie dogs have shorter front teeth.


  • Gophers make their homes in underground burrows, digging tunnels to create a network. Prairie dogs also live in burrows, but they form larger, more intricate colonies called prairie dog towns.
  • Gophers are found in various habitats, including grasslands, forests, and deserts, while prairie dogs are primarily found in grasslands and prairies.

Behavior and Activity:

  • Gophers usually live alone, except during breeding season, and are mostly active at night (nocturnal).
  • In contrast, prairie dogs are social creatures that live in big groups and are active during the day (diurnal).


  • Gophers are herbivores, mainly eating roots, tubers, and other plant materials.
  • Prairie dogs are herbivores, they prefer eating grasses, seeds, and other vegetation.

Burrow System:

  • Gophers dig elaborate burrow systems that may have nesting spots, places to store food, and many ways to enter and go out.
  • Prairie dogs’ burrow systems are more complex than gophers’, with many entrances and exits, and special rooms for sleeping, caring for their young, and even bathroom areas.


  • Gophers can cause damage to crops, gardens, and landscaping due to their burrowing activities.
  • Prairie dogs can also damage crops and landscaping, but since they live in bigger groups, their digging can cause more damage.


Read also: What Do Gophers Look Like?



Gophers and prairie dogs are different in size, appearance, habitat, behavior, diet, burrow systems, and the damage they cause. Gophers are small, solitary, and active at night, eating roots and tubers.

Prairie dogs are larger, social, active during the day, and eat grasses and seeds. Both animals are important in their ecosystems but can be pests because of their digging.

Whether you like the solitary gopher or the social prairie dog, both are interesting to watch, and their burrow systems show their unique adaptations.


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