Demonstration of ground-penetrating radar as a useful tool for assessing pocket gopher burrows


  • Editor-in-Chief: Krausman.
  • Associate Editor: Messmer.



Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is an innovative and non-invasive method that uses radar to penetrate the ground and develop three-dimensional digital images of the top several meters of the earth. Ground-penetrating radar has been used extensively in the fields of engineering, military science, forensic science, archaeology, and environmental remediation, but has received little attention by wildlife professionals. We demonstrated a possible application of GPR for wildlife studies for mapping burrow systems using maritime pocket gophers (Geomys personatus maritimus), a subspecies of concern as listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ground-penetrating radar surveys were conducted at Naval Air Station—Corpus Christi on five 15-m × 15-m areas with >200 above-ground gopher mounds/ha during July 2007. Survey areas were scanned with a Geophysical Survey Systems Inc. SIR-3000, GPR digital control unit and a 900-MHz ground-coupled antenna. Within the 5 areas, we located 8 gophers and mapped 267 m of tunnels that had an average depth of 0.6 m. We were able to differentiate deteriorating or abandoned tunnels from active tunnels, detect an underground pipeline, and distinguish changes in soil texture using GPR. Ground-penetrating radar is a non-destructive and non-invasive method to gain knowledge of fossorial animal movements and potential destabilization of soil integrity. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.