Speckled ground squirrels are are a small ground dwelling rodents. They have dark-brown fur with white spots on their back and a short, thin tail. They are smaller and less social than other ground squirrels in their genus.
Speckled ground squirrels are native to eastern Europe. They are found in Belarus, Moldova, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. Their natural habitat is temperate grassland and they can also be found on cultivated ground.
Speckled ground squirrels are diurnal creatures which hibernate from October to April. They are active in the morning once the sun warms the area slightly and then come back to their underground den during the heat of the day. Late in the day they come out again for another feeding bout. These ground squirrels live in separate burrows within a larger colony. These colonies can be up to over 160 individuals per ha. When outside their burrows these small animals spend a most of their time standing on their hind legs scanning the surroundings in search of predators. They use alarm calls for a variety of purposes. Primarily, the alarm call is used to warn conspecific squirrels of predators and to alert predators that they've been detected.
Speckled ground squirrels are polygynous which means that males mate with multiple females during the breeding season. They breed between April and May. The gestation period lasts around 23-26 days after which four to eight babies are born. Young usually spend one month in the burrow until they are ready to emerge. Both males and females reach reproductive maturity at 1 year of age.
Speckled ground squirrels are threatened by the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. Causes of habitat loss include the expansion of agriculture and forestry, the reduction of pasturing, the development and growth of cities, and industrial development. Also, in some areas these animals are hunted as agricultural pests.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Speckled ground squirrel is unknown. However, there is an estimated population of the species in Poland having around 20,000 individuals. Currently, the Speckled ground squirrel is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.
Due to their habit of digging burrows, Speckled ground squirrels help to aerate the soil and also create shelter for other animals.