Richardson’s Ground Squirrel

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii), is a ground squirrel native to North America. It is found mainly in the northern states of the United States, such as North Dakota, and in southern Canada, such as southern Alberta and Southern Saskatchewan. The range of this animal expanded as forests were cleared to create farm land. It lives in short grass prairies and has also adapted to suburban environments.

A typical adult is about 12 inches long. Weight varies greatly with time of year and location. In spring, after hibernation, the squirrel weighs between 7 and 14 ounces, but by the time they are ready to hibernate again they can weigh as much as 26.5 ounces. Males are slightly larger than females on average. They are dark brown on the upper side and tan underneath. The tail is shorter and less bushy than in other ground squirrels, and the external ears are so short they look more like holes in the squirrel”˜s head. Behavior is more like that of a prairie dog than a typical ground squirrel. The tail is constantly trembling, so the animal is sometimes called the “Flickertail”.

These squirrels are very territorial around their nesting area, but they will group closely with others in colonies. Some adults will hibernate as early as July, but younger squirrels tend to hibernate in September. The males emerge from slumber in March and establish territories before the females emerge a few weeks later. Females birth a litter of up to 8 young in April or May. Their diet consists of mainly seeds, nuts, grains, grasses and insects.

This animal was named after the Scottish naturalist Sir John Richardson. The Gopher Museum in Torrington, Alberta, Canada, has a large selection of stuffed ground squirrels of many varieties and colors. North Dakota is nicknamed after the squirrel: The Flickertail State.