If you see a small brown animal running across the ground, your first thought might be that it is a chipmunk. You might be right, but it could also be a 13-lined ground squirrel.
Thirteen-lined ground squirrels are often confused with chipmunks. One easy way to tell them apart is by their stripes. Chipmunks’ stripes start on their backs and run the length of their bodies. The squirrels’ stripes start at their necks and run along their backs, but they do not have stripes on their heads.
Here’s more information about 13-lined ground squirrels.
As you might expect, 13-lined ground squirrels have 13 stripes on their backs. The stripes alternate between dark brown and light brown. The dark brown spots often have tan spots on them, which makes them look like dotted lines.
Thirteen-lined ground squirrels are diurnal, which means they are active during the day. Animals that are active at night are called nocturnal.
They are one of the only animals that live in our area that hibernate. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels can spend as many as 250 days a year in hibernation. That’s about as long as eight months!
Thirteen-lined ground squirrels spend a lot of time underground. They build burrows in the soil that allow them to travel underground.
These squirrels are pretty small. They are between 4 ½ inches and 6 ½ inches long, but they weigh less than 1 pound.
They have tails, but not as long as a tree squirrel’s. The ground squirrel’s tail is about half the length of its body. It’s a little bushy, but not nearly as much as a tree squirrel’s.
Ground squirrels live in areas with short grasses that they can see above while standing on their hind legs. They commonly live in areas such as golf courses, cemeteries, airports, along roadsides and even in our yards.
These animals are native to the United States, meaning that is where they originated. They live mostly in the central part of the country, what is traditionally considered the plains states.
In Illinois, 13-lined ground squirrels are common, but only in the northern two-thirds of the state. They do not live in southern Illinois.
These squirrels are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. They eat predominantly plants, including seeds from weeds and other plants such as corn and wheat. They also eat grasses and clover. They don’t eat a lot of animal matter, but do sometimes eat insects, bird eggs, other small animals and animal carcasses.
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