Can You Keep Gophers as Pets? You’ll Need This Special License


Often thought of to be a nuisance to properties across America, many individuals feel that these mid-size burrowing creatures have the ability to make great pets. However, trying to keep a gopher as a pet is a complicated task.

You can only keep a domesticated gopher as a pet if you obtain one through an exotic pet dealer. Individuals can obtain a Wildlife Rehabilitator License from their State to rehabilitate a wounded animal back to health and release it into the wild.

Exotic pet dealers can be tough to find. The good news is that just about every state office offers a Wildlife Rehabilitator License. However, the purpose of this license is to help rehabilitate the gopher back into nature, rather than keep it as a pet.

What is a Wildlife Rehabilitator License?

A Wildlife Rehabilitator License is a special permit that allows an individual to take care of a sick or wounded wild animal and nurse it back to health.

This license is designed for individuals looking to help take care of animals that would struggle on their own without proper care. When an animal is nursed back to health, it is the responsibility of the caregiver to go and release the animal back into the wild.

If you want to use this license to keep a (temporary) gopher, then you’ll have to have a Wildlife Rehabilitator License and the animal will be in need of your assistance before you can take care of it.

To be honest, it’s a somewhat extensive process to get the license. In the state of New York, you have to pass an exam and get several hours of hands-on training to be certified for this license.

In New York State, you have to:

  1. Pass an exam with at least an 80% score (offered twice a year)
  2. Interview with a DEC wildlife representative
  3. Renew the license ever 5 years

If you’re interested in finding out more regarding the specifics of the license, you can click here (link to nysdec.gov) to view the license details.

Getting the license teaches you how to properly handle a wild animal in specific situations and helps you take the proper actions to benefit both parties.

More importantly, it teaches you how to recognize when the situation is severe enough to call in a professional to help take care of the poor animal.

So no, you really can’t keep a wild gopher as a pet. However, you can bring one back to health if you have a wildlife rehabilitator license.

Remember, gophers are wild animals first. Keeping a wild gopher as a pet is similar to keeping a wild opossum or wild mole as a pet (which also requires a permit). Many animals are much better off in the wild, especially if that’s their natural habit.

Would Gophers Make Good Pets Anyways?

Gophers Hugging in Field

Gophers are known to be wild animals that like to dig tunnels in the ground and live in nature. By nature, they like to dig, and digging is extremely natural to them.

If you’re able to find a licensed dealer that can sell you a domesticated baby gopher, then keeping one as a pet may be of interest.

However, this may be tough to find.

From giving a quick internet search, I wasn’t able to find any pet dealers who specifically raise gophers.

Another thing you’d have to consider is that there will more than likely be a lack of community support of caring for your gopher.

For instance, dogs and cats are both extensively owned animals in the world whereas gophers are not.

Likely, you won’t a lot of online support to help you raise the gopher.

So if you have any questions about raising your gopher, they’ll be tougher to find. However, a quick conversation with your local veterinarian could go a long way into helping the situation.

Thinking about the living space, since gophers are wired to dig underground, then it would be wise to get a very deep tank to mix with water and soil for the gopher to dig tunnels in.

Hypothetically, if you owned a pet gopher, this would be an essential factor in raising it because digging is so instinctual for them.

Still hypothetically, if you were to get a 20 – 30 gallon tank and fill it with soil and a little bit of water, you would create a happy home for the gopher to dig its little heart out.

That being said, I still don’t think a gopher would be the best idea for a pet. Additionally, the gopher may not be as happy being domesticated as it would in its natural habitat.

Instead, it would be much, much easier to get a pet such as a hamster or bunny instead.

If you were to get a bunny or pet hamster instead of a pet pocket gopher, you could drive to the pet store in the next 45 minutes and quickly pick up everything you need to take care of the animal for an extended period of time.

There is also a tremendous amount of information that is widely available on how to raise these animals as well.

You won’t find too much of that information about raising a gopher.

The only way you can obtain a gopher properly is to find a licensed exotic pet dealer who can help you track one down.

What Do Gophers Eat?

If you’ve decided you want to attempt to track down a dealer who can help you obtain a pet gopher, then it may be helpful to know what you need to do to feed a gopher properly.

Or maybe, you’re just interested in what they eat anyways.

Wild gophers are notorious omnivores and often eat any grass, shrubs, roots, bulbs and underground vegetables they can find.

Gophers especially love vegetables such as garlic, carrots, and onions as well, as they often make their way into gardens and pick out those vegetables for their meal.

So, it would be possible to adhere to the diet of a gopher and feed it with some cheap vegetables from the dollar store. However, it would be more natural for the gopher to fulfill it’s diet out in the wild, snacking on roots and vegetables.

Remember, gophers are naturally wild animals who are genetically wired to obtain food from all of these different sources daily.

We give our dogs and cats specially mixed food designed for their species, but there is no such mix for a gopher (at least from what I can tell).

The only way to mimic the diverse diet of a gopher would be to keep a variety of different vegetables on hand and feed them to him on a daily basis.

Is There Any Other Way to Have a Gopher as a Pet?

There really isn’t any other way to have and keep a pet gopher.

You may be able to track down a licensed exotic pet dealer where you live, as they can help you find a proper pet gopher.

If you’re just interested in nursing a gopher back to health, then the wildlife rehabilitator license may be a viable option – however it takes extensive effort to get said license.

For small animals like rabbits, rodents, and ferrets, there is much information across the web regarding what to do in specific situations to solve a problem regarding the animal.

With a gopher, there really isn’t that online support out there to help raise the gopher, which is something to keep in mind.

If obtained properly, you’d always be able to take your pet gopher to the veterinarian’s office for advice – but this, in fact, is an extra step you would end up having to take with a pet gopher.

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