Difference Between Moles and Gophers

Key Difference – Moles vs Gophers

Moles and gophers are both mammals with similar body types and behaviors, though, there is some difference between them as they belong to two different animal families and orders. Both animals are burrowers and are often confused when distinguishing both species. Sometimes, these animals, especially gophers, are considered as agricultural pests due to their subterranean activity. The key difference between Moles and Gophers is that the Moles are mammals belonging to the Order Soricomorpha while Gophers are mammals belonging to Order Rodentia. In this article, the difference between moles and gophers will be highlighted in more detail.

What is a Mole?

Moles belong to the Family Talpidae (shrew family) of Order Soricomorpha and are mainly found in North America, Asia, and Europe. They are small burrowing mammals and mainly feed on earthworms and other small mollusks. Generally, moles are confused with several other mammals like shrews and gophers. However, moles can be distinguished by their hairless, pointed mouth extending about 0.5 inches. Moles have cylindrical bodies with velvet fur. Since they are adapted to subterranean life, their eyes and ears are poorly developed. Moreover, their hind limbs are short with sharp claws, but they have powerful forelimbs with large paws adapted for burrowing.

Male moles are usually larger than females. Moles are territorial, solitary creatures. Unlike other mammals, they are well adapted to tolerate high carbon dioxide concentrations because they have a unique hemoglobin protein in their blood cells. Their polydactyl forepaws contain an extra thumb called pre pollex. Some examples for moles include star-nosed mole, hair tailed Mole, short-faced mole, long-tailed Mole, etc.

mole vs.gopher

What is a Gopher?

Gophers are burrowing rodents and belong to Order Rodentia. Scientists have identified about 35 species of gophers so far, and all these species are endemic to North and Central America. Gophers have a cylindrical body with brown fur. Their body is about 6-8 inches long with 1-2-inch long tail. Males are larger than females. The presence of large cheek pouch is a unique characteristic feature to identify gophers. They use these pouches to transport food back to their burrows. Their eyes are poorly developed. Gophers are omnivores and feed on earthworms, plant roots, and vegetables. Gophers are solitary animals with aggressive territorial behaviors.

difference between mole and gopher

What is the difference between Moles and Gophers?

Classification of Moles and Gophers

Moles: Moles belong to Order Soricomorpha    

Gophers: Gophers belong to Order Rodentia

Distribution of Moles and Gophers

Moles: Moles are found in North America, Asia, and Europe  

Gophers: Gophers are endemic to North and Central America

Characteristic Features of Moles and Gophers

Physical Characteristics

Moles: Moles have small and short hind limbs and forelimbs with larger paws. They have an extra thumb called pre pollex

Gophers: Gophers have large cheek pouches to carry food


Moles: Moles mainly feed on earthworms but rarely feed on plant parts

Gophers: Gophers feed on earthworms, roots, and vegetables


Moles: Moles are not often considered as serious agricultural pests

Gophers: Gophers are considered as serious agricultural pests


Moles: Moles have smaller mounds than gophers.

Gophers: Gophers’s mounds are generally kidney shaped and made out of cloggy soil.


Moles: Moles have small teeth adapted for consuming small insects

Gophers: Gophers have large chisel-like pairs of upper and lower incisors adapted for gnawing.


Moles: Moles have long and tapering muzzle  

Gophers: Gophers have rounded muzzle


Moles: Tunnels of moles are just beneath the surface with visible raised ridges.

Gophers: Tunnels of gophers are well below ground and not visible from the above ground.


Image Courtesy :
“Pocket-Gopher Ano-Nuevo-SP” by LeonardoWeiss – Own work.  (CC BY 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons  
“ScalopusAquaticus” by Kenneth Catania, Vanderbilt University.  CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons