Gophers Come Out of Hibernation at Naurzum State Nature Reserve to Mark Start of Spring

ASTANA – Gophers came out of hibernation at the Naurzum State Nature Reserve in the Kostanai Region to mark spring’s arrival, reported the reserve’s press service on March 1. Sandstone gophers are the largest of the three species living in the area.

Sandstone gopher. Photo credit: Instagram @naurzum_gpz. Click to see the map in full size.

“In 2022, gophers appeared on March 7, which is quite normal in our region. This year it became warmer in the last ten days of February, so the animals came out earlier,” said a senior researcher of the reserve Rishat Batryakov.

After hibernation, rodents begin their rutting period, which lasts up to two weeks. Four to 13 cubs are born a month later, which move into separate burrows by June. 

Photo credit: Instagram @naurzum_gpz.

Animals actively feed before hibernation. The weight of an adult before hibernation can reach 1.6 kilograms. With the onset of heat and burnout of vegetation, gophers go into summer hibernation due to a lack of sufficiently moist food, which lasts through winter hibernation without a break.

The sandstones are the first type of gophers to come out of hibernation.

In most of their habitats, sandstone gophers are the main consumers of vegetation. Numerous gopher burrows become shelters for other small inhabitants of the steppe. The animal is one of the main prey for rare species of bird predators, such as the steppe eagle, the eastern imperial eagle, and the white-tailed eagle, as well as for mammals like foxes and wolves.

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