Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel

Spermophilus tridecemlineatus
Sciuridae (squirrels) in the order Rodentia

This small, slender ground squirrel has 13 alternating light and dark stripes running along the back and sides from head to rump. The light stripes are yellowish to white, and the dark ones are blackish to reddish brown, broken by a series of light spots. It has large eyes and small ears set low on the head, and a slightly bushy tail about half as long as the body. One of the few truly hibernating mammals, the thirteen-lined ground squirrel appears above ground only 3-4 months out of the year. In autumn, they eat until their body weight doubles with stored fat. During hibernation in an underground chamber, their body temperature drops to just above freezing and their heart rate slows to five beats a minute.

Total length: 7 to 12 1/2 inches
Habitat and conservation: 
The thirteen-lined ground squirrel prefers to live in open areas where the grass is short. Its home is a burrow in the ground with several outside entrances. The main entrance is open during the day, but the squirrel plugs the opening at night with sod or grass.
They forage for both plant and animal foods, including grains and garden vegetables as well as cicadas, crickets and grasshoppers.
Distribution in Missouri: 
They used to occur in the grassland habitats of northern and western Missouri, but now occur only in northwest and north central Missouri.
In 2009, following a survey in northern and western Missouri, this species was added to the Missouri list of Species of Conservation Concern with a status as "unrankable."
Life cycle: 
Adult thirteen-lined ground squirrels mate shortly after they emerge from their long hibernation in the spring. The gestation period is about 28 days, and young (from 4-14 per litter) are born about the middle of May. The young come out of the nest at about 5 to 6 weeks of age, and after a week or two lead independent lives in the vicinity of their home burrow. Both sexes mature the year following their birth.
Human connections: 
Because they have adapted well to mowed lawns, cemeteries and golf courses, where they burrow and feed on crops and garden plants, they are often regarded as a pest.
Ecosystem connections: 
They serve as food for many predators (including mammals, birds and reptiles), and their digging is good for the soil. They also help distribute seeds.
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