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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 6:54 EDT

Round-tailed Ground Squirrel

The Round-tailed Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tereticaudus), is a species of ground squirrel that lives in the desert of the American southwest and adjacent Mexico. They are well adapted to desert life. They can stay active even on the hottest of days though they do tend to limit their activity during the heat of the afternoon sun. They live underground in the winter, typically from late August or September until January or February. They are called “ground Squirrels” because they burrow in loose soil, often under mesquite trees and creosote bushes. These squirrels do not hibernate.

Most round-tailed ground squirrels are very small. Weight at birth is less than a quarter of an ounce. Adults weigh around 4.5 ounces. All have a long round tail and long, hairy hind feet. They have no fur markings, instead having a uniform sandy color, which matches the soil they burrow in. The underside of their body is usually a lighter shade. Females give birth to an average of 5.4 pups and they reach sexual maturity in about 11 months. Their maximum longevity is less than nine years.

They have a semi-colonial social structure, and will alert others of impending danger with a high-pitched alarm call. But they will chase away other ground squirrels who get too close to their own burrow. The males are dominant during breeding season (January through March). The females dominate during raising of the young (March and April).

They are omnivores. The bulk of their diet is green vegetation, especially in the summer. They also eat seeds and insects (ants, termites, and grasshoppers). Most of their foods are chosen for high water content because of the shortage of available water in their environment. The average water content of the food they eat is 80%. They are prey animals for coyotes, badgers, and snakes.

Round-tailed Ground Squirrel