This ground squirrel has 13 stripes, lined in shades from white to brown. Always on the alert, they're ready to dash through grassland runways to their burrows should a predator make a move. They'll pop back out to scout the situation within moments. Ground squirrels can stand on hind legs in what's known as a "picket pin" posture to survey their surroundings.
Thirteen-lined ground squirrels move with lightning speed through grasslands, diving into underground burrows for safety. Hawks, badgers, coyotes and snakes pursue them. They’re one of our few truly hibernating animals. When they head underground in the fall, they will plug the entrance to their burrow. While underground, their body temperature drops to just above freezing. And their heart rate slows to 5 beats per minute.
The best place to see these ground squirrels is in northwest Missouri, in grasslands or prairie country. The best time is the brightest part of sunny days. They stay in their burrows on cloudy or rainy days. The best photo op is when they stand on hind legs eating wildflower seeds.
Thirteen-lined ground squirrels help aerate soil and distribute seeds.
See them up close and personal in the video below.
- In Missouri, the thirteen-lined ground squirrel is a Species of Conservation Concern, listed as imperiled within our borders. Range and population numbers are declining.
- It once occurred in several counties in the plains of northern and western Missouri and in some small tongues of prairie that project into the western border of the Ozarks. Today, it still occurs in localized populations mostly in northwest Missouri.
- The thirteen-lined ground squirrel appears above ground only 3–4 months out of the year.
- During hibernation in an underground chamber, their heart rate slows to five beats a minute.
- Adult thirteen-lined ground squirrels mate shortly after they emerge from their long hibernation in the spring.
- They serve as food for many predators (including mammals, birds and reptiles), and their digging aerates the soil, conditions it for plant growth, and may attract earthworms, insects, and other soil-building organisms.
Discover more about the thirteen-lined ground squirrel with MDC’s Field Guide.