Ground squirrels live all over the world. The American red
squirrel lives in evergreen forests in North and Central
America. Arctic squirrels live on the tundra. Mohave
ground squirrels live in the Mojave Desert of California.
These are only a few of the kinds of ground squirrels there are in
Ground squirrels and tree squirrels are
different. You can tell the difference this way. Ground
squirrels will run to their burrow
in the ground if they are scared. Tree squirrels will climb a
tree or high building.
Ground squirrels are mostly active during the day
time. They spend a lot of their time underground in homes
called burrows where they sleep, raise their babies, store food, and
stay away from danger. When they dig their burrows, they make
large hills of dirt and rock that buries grass or small
plants. People don't like this because they are ruining plants
and putting a pile of dirt where people might trip and hurt
themselves. These animals can hurt shrubs, vines, and trees by
chewing on them. The hills of dirt make it hard to mow or farm
and hurts the machines that try to do it. This does not make
the farmers like the squirrels, either.
are about 7-8 inches long and weigh about 8-14 ounces. This is
about as much as a pound of butter weighs. They have four
front teeth that they use for cutting or grinding. They eat
vegetables and field crops when they are first starting to grow.
[This upsets the farmers, too.] Ground squirrels will find
some other food when the ones they like aren't around for some
reason. Squirrels mainly eat grasses, seeds, grains, and
nuts. They eat more food before winter so that they can live
through the times when food won't be easy to get. They store
food in their dens, too.
squirrels hibernate, they go into their
dens to sleep through the cold of winter. They usually
hibernate five to six months of the year. Their body temperatures
drop so that they are only about one or two degrees higher than the
temperature outside. The body
temperature drops below the freezing point of water. Their breathing
and heart beats slow down. A ground squirrel’s heart will beat
only a few times in a minute during hibernation.
Every week or so, the squirrels wake up for about 12-20 hours and then go
into hibernation again. Some ground squirrels don't hibernate if
they are in climates where the winters don't get too cold.
Hibernation is the animal's way to adapt
to things it can't change like weather or not having food available.
When it's time to stop hibernating, the squirrel’s body temperature
rises just as fast as it went down in the beginning.
Some squirrels estivate,
which is like a summer hibernation. Estivation
happens when animals are in a hot climate and need to get away from the
heat. An example of ground squirrel estivation is the Mohave ground
squirrel that lives in the Mojave Desert in California. They sleep
for about seven months a year in burrows when the air temperature gets
above 98 degrees Fahrenheit. They might go to sleep anytime from
June to September and stay asleep until February. Older squirrels go
to sleep before the younger ones because they are less active and don't
need to store as much food to make it through hibernation. Mojave
Desert squirrels also have times when the weather cools and they go into a
little torpor. They get less active
if the air temperature drops below 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
Males usually go into estivation first because they don't
need to store as much food as the females do. Females need to feed
their babies before their bodies store fat. After they come out of
estivation, ground squirrels have a litter
of babies. There might be seven or eight babies in the litter.
The young squirrels stay in the burrow for about six weeks.
to Hibernation or Torpor