Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

Published on February 9, 2013 by Amy

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Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel
Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

Some people call these rascally squirrels “Federation Squirrels” because of the pattern on their back and sides which looks like stars and stripes. This color pattern helps camouflage them in tall grasses from their number one predator, the northern harrier. They also like to stand at attention (this is called a “picket pin” posture) on their hind legs as they look to watch for danger.

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Interesting Facts:

Because ground squirrels spend most of their lives below ground, they build extensive burrows. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels make three types of burrows.

  • Hiding burrows are short and there are lots of them.
  • Nesting burrows are larger.
  • Hibernating burrows, below the frost line (20-40 inches deep) contain a large nest and a plugged entrance.
  • Description of the Thirteen lined Ground Squirrel:

    The thirteen-lined squirrel is from 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 inches long, with a tail that is 2 1/2 to 5 inches long. The body is light to dark brown, with 13 stripes down its back. The stripes alternate between solid white and ark with white dots.

    The thirteen-lined ground squirrel resembles the chipmunk in size, but the chipmunk has a broad white stripe bordered with black on each side of the body and face.

    Habitat and behavior:

    Thirteen-lined ground squirrels live in short grasslands and weedy areas. This squirrel needs to see over the top of the grass when it stands on its hind legs. Golf courses, cemeteries, parks, roadsides , and airport land are ideal because they are occasionally mowed.

    The squirrels dig burrows without a mound of soil at the entrance. They spread the soil around and pat it down with their feet and the top of their head. Breeding takes place once a year about mid-April and the babies are born about 28 days later. The babies come out of the burrows about a month after birth.

    The 13-lined ground squirrel burrows beneath the ground during the winter and seals the entrance before hibernating. Their heartbeat actually changes from 350 beats per minute to 5. They use up their stored fat resources to nourish them as they sleep curled up in a ball. When they wake up, they eat the food that they set aside in the fall including seeds, grains, and nuts. They also love to snack on grasshoppers and literally pounce on them every chance they get.

    Food:

    Thirteen-lined ground squirrels eat grasses, weeds, seeds, and crops. They also eat earthworms and insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and ants.

    Distribution and status:

    You’ll find the 13-lined ground squirrel in prairies and fields, brushy areas, and in small stands of trees. Their only predators are hawks, weasels, badgers, dogs, and cats. Road traffic and flooding are also hazards.

    Source: turtletrack

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