Like other pocket gophers, the western pocket gopher spends most of its life underground, where it constructs an extensive burrow system (2) (4) (6). In addition to shallow feeding tunnels, it also digs deeper tunnels which include chambers for nesting, storing food and depositing faeces (2) (4) (6). The nest chamber is usually lined with dry grass (2) (6). Above ground, the western pocket gopher leaves conspicuous, fan-shaped mounds of excavated soil, but unlike most rodents it usually seals the burrow entrances with plugs of earth (2) (4) (6).
The western pocket gopher digs mainly with its strong front claws, but the large incisors may also be used to loosen soil and cut through roots. This species can run backwards through its tunnels almost as fast as it runs forwards (4) (6).
The diet of the western pocket gopher includes underground roots, bulbs and tubers, as well as surface vegetation such as grasses and forbs (1) (2) (4) (5) (6) (7). Woody plants are also occasionally eaten (2), mostly in winter (6). Although the western pocket gopher can forage underground from its burrows, it may also emerge onto the surface in the evening or at night to gather vegetation (1) (2) (4) (6). It rarely ventures far from the burrow entrance, typically filling its cheek pouches with vegetation before taking it below ground (2) (4) (6).
The western pocket gopher does not hibernate, and if snow accumulates on the ground it will burrow through it, lining the tunnels with excavated soil. In spring, rope-like trails of soil may be left on the surface when these snow tunnels melt (2) (4) (6).
A primarily solitary species, the western pocket gopher is highly territorial and intolerant of other individuals, except during the breeding season (4) (5) (6). This species is believed to be polygamous, with each male mating with several females (5) (6). The female western pocket gopher gives birth to a single litter of up to 7 young between March and June (1) (5), probably after a gestation period of about 18 to 19 days (4) (5).
The young western pocket gophers are likely to remain in the female’s burrow for about one to two months, before leaving to establish burrows of their own (4). This species reaches sexual maturity at about a year old (4) (5) (6). The western pocket gopher has a number of predators, including owls, coyotes, weasels, skunks, foxes, bobcats, and domestic dogs and cats (1) (2) (4) (6), and few individuals live for more than a year or two (4) (6).