Arctic Ground Squirrel

The Arctic Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus parryii), is a species of ground squirrel native to the Arctic Circle. They can be found in regions of Northern Canada ranging from the Arctic Circle down to the southern border of the Northwest Territories. They are also found in Alaska and Siberia. It inhabits dry arctic tundra and open meadows.

The Arctic ground squirrel has a beige and tan coat with a white-spotted back. This squirrel has a short face, small ears, a dark tail and white markings around its eyes. The average length of an Arctic ground squirrel is approximately 15.4 inches long, and weighs an average 26.4 oz, however, males generally 3 to 4 ounces heavier than females.

This squirrel feeds on grasses, sedges, mushrooms, bog rushes, bilberries, willows, roots, stalks, leaves, flowers, and seeds, but can adapt to other foods when necessary. Sometimes this squirrel carries food back to its den within its cheeks. The burrows are lined with lichens, leaves and musk ox hair. During hibernation their body temperature can drop to just above freezing and their heartbeat drops. They are prey to Arctic foxes, grizzly bears and eagles.

The Arctic Ground Squirrel lives in colonies and is the only arctic animal that hibernates. In the fall when the temperature drops, it will find a den and nest through until spring. Mating occurs in mid May after winter hibernation. Gestation is approximately 25 days, and results in a litter of 5 to 10 hairless pups. After 6 weeks the pups are weaned and this is followed by rapid growth to prepare for the upcoming winter.