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                Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel

                Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel

                Kingdom
                Phylum
                Subphylum
                Class
                Order
                Family
                Subfamily
                Tribe
                SPECIES
                Xerospermophilus tereticaudus
                Population size
                Unknown
                Life Span
                8.9 yrs
                WEIGHT
                110-170 g
                LENGTH
                204-278 mm

                Round-tailed ground squirrels are comparatively small animals with grayish-brown coloring that matched the sandy soils of their environment. Their unique characteristics are, most noticeably, their long, slender, rounded tail, and secondly, their long, wide, hairy hind feet. Their claws and their small ears positioned low on the head, enable them to live underground in a lifestyle that is semi-fossorial. They are often mistaken for prairie dogs or gophers, but prairie dogs are much larger and gophers do not forage above ground. There is scarce information about the lifespan of this species but one individual born in the wild lived to 8.9 years in captivity.

                Video

                Distribution

                Round-tailed ground squirrels inhabit northern Mexico and the southwest United States, including Arizona and California. They live in parts of the Mojave, Colorado and Yuma deserts where the habitat features extreme temperatures and low humidity. They favor flat, sandy areas like creosote scrub vegetation.

                Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel habitat map

                Geography

                Climate zones

                Habits and Lifestyle

                These squirrels are diurnal and most active during the morning and evening, avoiding the most extreme heat by going into their burrows at midday or finding shade under a plant. They will climb into bushes to obtain leaves and also to avoid the sun and the hot sand. Their social organization is semi-colonial, but they have individual burrows, and other squirrels are chased away if approaching too closely. Males are dominant during the breeding season (January to March) and females during the period of raising the young (March to April). They don't hibernate, but during the colder months, from late September or the beginning of October these animals are in a state of torpor, except for some areas where they remain active all year round. Round-tailed ground squirrels communicate with whistles, a warning being a single whistle, whereupon another squirrel in the area will run to its burrow and then look around.

                Diet and Nutrition

                Round-tailed ground squirrels are omnivores. The diet includes a big proportion of green vegetation (80% or more), and also seeds and some insects.

                Mating Habits

                MATING BEHAVIOR
                REPRODUCTION SEASON
                January-April
                PREGNANCY DURATION
                25-35 days
                BABY CARRYING
                6-12 kittens
                INDEPENDENT AGE
                5 weeks
                FEMALE NAME
                doe
                MALE NAME
                buck
                BABY NAME
                pup, kit, kitten

                Round-tailed ground squirrels are polygynandrous (promiscuous), with both males and females having multiple mates. Breeding is from January to April and gestation lasts 25 to 35 days. The average little size is 6, the largest litter recorded being 12. The average weight at birth is 3.7 g, and babies are hairless and their eyes and ears are closed. At 25 days old a squirrel is capable of coordinated running. Weaning occurs at 5 weeks. Round-tailed ground squirrels become reproductively mature when they reach 10 to 11 months of age.

                Population

                Population threats

                There are no major threats to Round-tailed ground squirrels at present.

                Population number

                According to IUCN, Round-tailed ground squirrel is common to very common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Today this species’ numbers remain stable and it is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

                Ecological niche

                Due to being omnivorous, it is likely that this species has some impact on insect and plant and populations and their digging of burrows contributes to soil aeration.

                Fun Facts for Kids

                • The Round-tailed ground squirrel either digs its own burrow or uses an old burrow of another species. The entrance is at the foot of a bush and there is no mound to indicate this since the soil is scattered.
                • A group of squirrels is called a “scurry” or “dray”.
                • Squirrels are clever and will often work out sophisticated and elaborate methods to access food.
                • “Squirrel” comes from the Greek “skiouros”, which means “the shadow tail” (“Skia” is “shadow” and “oura” is “tail”). The reason for the name is thought to be due to the ability of a squirrel to create its own shade by lifting its tail.
                • Squirrels are very trusting creatures, being one of very few wild animals which will eat from a human’s hand.
                • The squirrel is a Native American symbol for trust, preparation and thriftiness.

                References

                1. Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round-tailed_ground_squirrel
                2. Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/20493/0

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