Richardson's Ground Squirrel

Richardson's Ground Squirrel

Dakrat, Flickertail

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Urocitellus richardsonii
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
1-5 yrs
WEIGHT
200-450 g
LENGTH
30 cm

Richardson's ground squirrels were named after the Scottish naturalist Sir John Richardson. They are dark brown on the upper side and tan underneath. Their tail is shorter and less bushy than in other ground squirrels, and the external ears are so short as to look more like holes in the animal's head. Their behavior is more like that of a prairie dog than a typical ground squirrel. The tail of these squirrels is constantly trembling, so they are sometimes called the "flickertails".

Distribution

Richardson's ground squirrels are found mainly in the northern states of the United States, such as North Dakota and Montana, and in western Canada, including central and southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan. They inhabit short grass prairies and sometimes adapt to suburban environments. It is not unusual to find these squirrels digging tunnels under the sidewalks and patios of urban homes.

Richardson's Ground Squirrel habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Richardson's ground squirrels are social and live communally. They organize their social structure around female kinship. Females will tolerate the presence of closely related females, but they are territorial towards other individuals. These squirrels are territorial around their nest sites. The burrows of Richardson's ground squirrels are grouped closely together in colonies, and individuals give audible alarm calls when possible predators approach. In some cases, ultrasonic alarm calls are given, and are responded to by other members of the colony. Richardson's ground squirrels use two audible alarm calls, a high-pitched whistle and a 'chirp' call. The whistle is given in response to terrestrial predators, while the chirp is given in response to aerial predators such as hawks. These ground squirrels may hibernate as early as July, though the young squirrels do not hibernate until September. The males emerge from hibernation in March, and establish territories before the females emerge a couple of weeks later.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Richardson's ground squirrels are omnivores. They feed on seeds, nuts, grains, grasses and insects. In addition, they may consume the corpses of other ground squirrels.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
mid-March to mid-April
PREGNANCY DURATION
22 days
BABY CARRYING
6-14 pups
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
pup, kit, kitten

Richardson's ground squirrels are polygynous which means that males mate with more than one females during the breeding season. Mating begins 3-5 days after hibernation, between mid-March and mid-April. Females produce one litter per year. Litter size averages 6, though the maximum size recorded is 14. The gestation period lasts around 22 days. The young are born in April or May and remain underground in the burrow around 30 days where the mother nurses, grooms and warms them. Both males and females are ready to breed when they are 11 months of age.

Population

Population threats

There are no major threats to Richardson's ground squirrels at present.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Richardson's ground squirrel total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

References

1. Richardson's Ground Squirrel on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richardson%27s_ground_squirrel
2. Richardson's Ground Squirrel on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/42561/22262546

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