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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Did You Know? 17 Incredible Ground Squirrel Facts

One of the interesting Arctic ground squirrel facts is that it has a beige fur coat.

Ground squirrels are a collection of 23 different genera of squirrels in the family Sciuridae. Ground squirrels are named so because they burrow into the soil and the ground. Also, ground squirrels hibernate during the cold winter months. Ground squirrels come in a variety of colors and sizes since there are so many of them. They are found in many different types of habitats such as rocky outcrops, fields, pastures, wooded hills, and even in urban settings such as golf courses, cemeteries, gardens, yards, and parks. They often prove to be a nuisance in public spaces which requires the use of elaborate measures like trapping and using ultrasonic sound to get rid of them. Ground squirrels are also known to live in communal structures and colonies. Females often tend to mate with multiple males and the males are known to get territorial amid the breeding season. Ground squirrels are also known for communication techniques that involve varying calls and body language.

For more relatable content, check out these Arctic ground squirrel facts and Indian palm squirrel facts for kids.

Ground Squirrel Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a ground squirrel?

The ground squirrel is a rodent and a squirrel.

What class of animal does a ground squirrel belong to?

The ground squirrel belongs to the Mammalia class of animals.

How many ground squirrels are there in the world?

The exact number of ground squirrels left in the world is unclear since there are more than 23 different genera of ground squirrels in the world.

Where does a ground squirrel live?

Ground squirrels live in a lot of different regions all around the world, a lot of them in the North American continent.

The California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) animal is native to the North American state of California but its habitat range also extends to western Oregon, Baja California, southwestern Washington, and western Nevada.

What is a ground squirrel's habitat?

Ground squirrels are found in a lot of different types of habitats such as rocky outcrops, pastures, fields, sparsely wooded hillsides, golf courses, parks, and cemeteries.

They are called ground squirrels since they inhabit the soil and the ground by making burrows. They are sometimes known to become livestock pests. Ground squirrels are known to be found in elevations ranging from sea level to as high as 13,123 ft (4,000 m).

Who do ground squirrels live with?

Ground squirrels are communal animals. They have strong social bonds and hierarchies.

The California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) species builds burrows or colonies that houses many future generations.

How long does a ground squirrel live?

Ground squirrels live for an average of six to ten years.

How do they reproduce?

Mating rituals vary with different species of ground squirrel species, but they are communal and the mothers are known to form firm social bonds with pups after they give birth. Spring is customarily the mating season, and males are known to become aggressive for breeding rights with females after attaining sexual maturity. Females will usually choose to mate with multiple males and after copulation, they give birth to five to ten pups or kittens. The gestation period usually lasts for three to four weeks. The pups are born hairless weighing around 0.4 oz (10 g) and they are weaned after six weeks. They grow quickly, chiefly with the winter-hibernating ground squirrel species.

What is their conservation status?

There are many different species of ground squirrels that fall under the Least Concern category, and others that fall under the Near Threatened and Vulnerable categories, as per the IUCN.

The California ground squirrel species is listed as a Least Concern species by the IUCN.

Ground Squirrel Fun Facts

What do ground squirrels look like?

There are a lot of species of ground squirrels, so they vary in size significantly. The heaviest ground squirrels are marmots and they weigh up to 18 lb (8 kg). And chipmunks are among the lightest at 0.1 lb (50 g), with slender, long bodies and shorter legs. The claws are strong and long which allows them to climb and dig. The colors on the body can vary from olive to gray to brown to dark reddish tones. Chipmunks have stripes while other ground squirrels have dappling and spots. Most ground squirrel species have different patterns on their body fur. The undersides of ground squirrels are lighter, often colored brown, light gray, or white.

The California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) species has body fur that is brown, gray, and white overall.

European ground squirrels have dark, large eyes and almost hidden rounded ears.

How cute are they?

Ground squirrels are adorable little animals. Their small bodies, smooth furs, big round eyes, small round ears, little hands, furry tails, and the way they eat their food are all very endearing. They are much adored in popular culture as well. However, ground squirrels sometimes prove to be pests and they carry diseased fleas on themselves, so they're better admired from afar.

How do they communicate?

Ground squirrels are very vocal and communicate via squawk-like calls and body language. They even give out warning calls to predators. They may even point to an approaching predator to alert other squirrels. Communication often happens one-way. Ground squirrels also use aggressive and relaxed postures.

The alarm calls contain moaning, barking, and buzzing. These are intense and noisy. They also stand on their hind legs and screech.

Males are known to make a soft, baby-like 'muk-muk' call to relay to females that they are ready for breeding and are not a threat. Babies make a similar sound when they want food. It is quieter and mostly females will hear it.

For territorial fights they use screeches and rattles, the former to ward off competition and the latter to indicate their own presence.

The calls range from aggressive screeches and low buzzes. Tail signals and scents are also used by ground squirrels.

How big is a ground squirrel?

Ground squirrels are 4-28 in (10.2-71.1 cm) in length, which makes them 2-13 times smaller than capybaras.

How fast can a ground squirrel run?

Ground squirrels may be able to run at speeds of 20 mph (32 kph).

How much does a ground squirrel weigh?

Ground squirrels weigh 0.1-18 lb (0.05-8 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males and females of the various ground squirrel species are called bucks and does respectively.

What would you call a baby ground squirrel?

A baby ground squirrel would be called a pup, a kitten, or a kit.

What do they eat?

Ground squirrels have an omnivorous diet and they eat fungi, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, eggs, insects, mice, rats, and other small creatures.

They themselves get preyed on by humans, birds of prey, wild cats, foxes, and snakes.

The California ground squirrel itself are a part of the diet of animals like American badgers, weasels, red-tailed hawks, rattlesnakes, golden eagles, domestic dogs, coyotes, domestic cats, mountain lions, and bobcats.

Are they dangerous?

Ground squirrels aren't particularly dangerous but they do tend to damage nut and fruit trees and other plants. Some people may trip over burrows made by ground squirrels. Levee systems, fences, and foundations may also get damaged by ground squirrels. They rarely ever bite humans though and the only cases of bites are from people who've tried feeding them. There have been negligible cases of rabies transmissions from ground squirrels.

Would they make a good pet?

No, the ground squirrel species would not make good pets. They are wild animals at heart and despite their cuteness, they would not adapt to captive situations.

Did you know...

One of the interesting California ground squirrel facts is that is also called the beechy ground squirrel. The California ground squirrel is the most commonly known ground squirrel in North America.

The golden-mantled ground squirrel species is endemic to the continent of North America. They have yellow-gray underparts and golden-reddish mantles on the shoulders.

Ground squirrel vs. chipmunk

Ground squirrels favor grassy habitats like golf courses, cemeteries, pastures, and yards. Chipmunks are more likely to be seen in wooded places as well as forests or in yards with many shrubs and trees.

Ground squirrels are known to undergo true hibernation. Their hibernation involves spending the three to four winter months in a year completely under the ground. Chipmunks, on the other hand, sleep in burrows in the ground while coming out of their habitat every few days to eat food, and hence their hibernation is not true.

Chipmunks are known to primarily eat a diet of nuts, berries, and seeds, whereas squirrels are more likely to feed on seeds and plants like wheat and corn. They also add small animals and insects to their diet sometimes.

Chipmunks are the ones that store food away for the winter months. They mainly gather seeds and nuts and put them away in their burrows. And since ground squirrels don't tend to wake up in the midst of hibernation, they do not require food. Ground squirrels instead eat food that is double the amount of their body weight to increase the fat stored in their bodies, which proves beneficial to them in the winter months.

Why are ground squirrels bad?

Ground squirrels tend to damage gardens that have nuts, fruits, and other trees. They are known to damage the foundations of buildings, levee systems, and fences. The burrows made by ground squirrels are tripping hazards. They are also known to carry diseases through fleas, which can potentially cause bubonic plague.

There are many ways to get rid of ground squirrels from a yard or a garden. One of them includes introducing predators of the ground squirrels like birds of prey and snakes. Tall trees attract birds of prey like hawks and piles of rocks and brush attract snakes. These animals prove effective but expensive and families may not feel comfortable with these predators nearby.

Ground squirrels are not comfortable with noise. Ultrasonic sound spikes near their burrows prove useful in driving them away. Wind chimes, mowing lawn equipment are also helpful. This is a humane technique of getting rid of these squirrels.

Ground squirrels cannot stand the smell of plants like castor beans, crown imperial, and narcissus. Planting these trees in yards and gardens drives the squirrels away. This is one of the safest ways to get rid of squirrels and it also adds some beauty to gardens.

A pepper spray made out of red pepper flakes and soap liquid with some water is also helpful. Spraying leaves and plants that the squirrels have been eating from or on burrows directly will help in deterring the ground squirrels away.

Yet another method is to use castor oil mixed with dish liquid with a lot of water. One can spray this on any area affected by ground squirrels.

The three most common and conventional ways that ground squirrels are actually dealt with are fumigation, trapping, and baiting. Fumigation is a humane method of killing these squirrels but may kill other animals too. Trapping is good for a lower amount of ground squirrels, especially when live traps are used instead of kill traps. Using kill traps may prove harmful since it means you have to dispose of dead animals, and it can affect pets, kids, or other animals. Kill traps can also be hideous to look at. Baiting with grain that is treated is another conventional method but it can prove dangerous since it requires the usage of poison and pesticides. Also, getting rid of dead ground squirrels will be unsightly and tedious.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these American marten fun facts for kids and wood mouse interesting facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Ground squirrel coloring pages.

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