Cassia's Common Ground Squirrel

By Dave Hanks

The adult males emerge from hibernation in January, followed by the females in February. They then breed in March and a litter of 5 – 8 young are born in April. The gestation period is short, which allows them to reproduce, and then return to hibernation in mid-summer when grasses become dry. Nature’s main purpose for smaller rodents is as a food staple for larger animals. Mass reproduction is therefore necessary to maintain a species.

These squirrels dig two types of burrows. One is dug in feeding areas and is short and shallow. Its purpose is a quick escape from a predator. A large burrow is also dug with extensive tunnels, which in most cases connect colonies and enable them to stick together. Entrances to this large burrow will have 4 to 6 inch piles of dirt surrounding them.

Many ground squirrels are hard to differentiate between without catching them for a closer inspection. A half dozen species are so much alike that the area they are seen in is the best identification guide. TOWNSEND’S GROUND SQUIRREL is our local inhabitant. Its skull and teeth must be measured and examined to make a positive identification.

Plain, undistinguished ground squirrels are not a very exciting to most folks, who generally consider them a great nuisance, but they have a definite role to play in the natural scheme. Large hawks, foxes, coyotes, and others would be at a loss with out them. Squirrels also can serve as a buffer between predators and domestic animals – lessening domestic predation.

(On the alert and surveying the scene)