Spotted ground squirrels are one of the smallest squirrels that inhabit the northern hemisphere. They have many white linear dorsal spots, as well as a white underbelly. The coloration of the rest of their body varies greatly and can be different shades of brown, black, gray and white. Spotted ground squirrels molt each year. Fur color can be influenced by environmental surrounds, and populations that live in soil rich areas tend to have darker colorings than those living in grassland.
Spotted ground squirrels are found throughout Mexico and the central and western United States. Their range extends from south-central South Dakota, through Nebraska. It's also found in eastern Colorado, northwestern Oklahoma, western Texas, eastern Arizona, western Kansas, the large majority of New Mexico and the southeastern part of Utah. In Mexico, they occur in the south and central Mexico. Spotted ground squirrels live in areas of deep sand soils where vegetation is sparse and scattered. They inhabit sand hills and dunes. Their burrows are usually found on short grass mesa's or along the banks of rivers.
Spotted ground squirrels are social creatures that are active during the day. These animals live in burrows which they dig themselves. Within their burrow systems, they make tunnels to store the food, as well as shelter and hibernation quarters. Each burrow has two or more entrances which are hidden under bushes or grass. Spotted ground squirrels forage in the cooler part of the morning and afternoon, and try to stay not far from entrance to their burrow, into which they easily escape if threatened. The rest time is dedicated to alert calls, resting, sun bathing, and grooming. These squirrels have 7 different alert postures used to warn others about predators or to guide the territory from other males during mating seasons. Hibernation time for these little animals begins in late July and lasts until April and May. Seasonal activity occurs in April/May through July/August and is estimated to be 115-135 days for males and 95-125 days for females.
Spotted ground squirrels are herbivores and feed on seeds and green plant parts. In the spring, they consume green grass shoots and in the summer they eat flowers and seeds of green plants. In the late summer, these squirrels may also feed on grasshopper larvae.
Little is known about the mating system in Spotted ground squirrels. During their breeding season, males display one of the main above ground activity. It is a 'frenzy' like pattern when males enter and exit their burrows sporadically, which is most likely a type of courting behavior. The breeding season begins in mid-April, a few weeks after hibernation and lasts until mid-July. Females give birth to 4-12 babies after the gestation period that lasts around 24 days. Young depend on their mother within 2-3 weeks after they came out from their home burrow.
There are no major threats to Spotted ground squirrels at present.
According to IUCN, the Spotted ground squirrel is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today remain stable.
Consuming and storing seeds and grass Spotted ground squirrels probably influence vegetative growth in their habitat range. These small rodents help to aerate the soil and also provide food for a variety of local predators.