Ground squirrels, like all squirrels, are part of the family Sciuridae. Unlike many other squirrels, they spend their time on terra firma, rather than up in trees. When ground squirrels need shelter, they rely on burrows that they carved out themselves. Their burrow homes often keep them secure from danger, too.
Ground squirrels often reside alongside others in burrows. Entry points to the burrows aren't ever closed off with dirt. The burrows most of the time feature multiple entry points. These openings to their burrows usually have diameters of roughly 4 inches. As far as depth goes, ground squirrel burrows frequently go as far down as between 2 and 4 feet, sometimes even further. The burrows are typically between 5 and 30 feet in length. Some of them are even significantly longer than 30 feet, as well.
While ground burrows all seek sanctuary in burrows, their burrow compositions often differ depending on the exact species. It isn't unheard of for several specimens of ground squirrels to inhabit a single burrow. It also isn't unheard of for networks of ground squirrel communities to consist of numerous burrows, all with their own occupants. Belding ground squirrels' (Urocitellus beldingi) burrows are often situated somewhat far from one another. California ground squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi), on the other hand, usually live closely alongside each other. Although casual colony existences are ways of life for many but not all ground squirrels, the critters are frequently spotted all by themselves out in nature, too.
Shelter for Squirrel Babies
While ground squirrels employ their burrows as resting spots and places to hide from potential hazards, they also regularly use them to take care of their youngsters. Mama squirrels nourish their babies -- through nursing -- for weeks, all while the little ones are tucked away inside of their underground abodes. Baby squirrels often remain inside their burrows for six to seven weeks or so. When they're old enough, they come up from the burrows and roam around on the earth. They typically begin eating solid foods at this time, often green plants. Squirrels across the board begin their lives dependent on maternal care, with shut eyes.
Multiple Burrow Lives
Ground squirrels frequently have numerous separate burrows, all which serve different functions, whether looking after offspring or sleeping. Idaho ground squirrels (Urocitellus brunneus), for one, are equipped with three distinct homes. Their most basic burrows don't go very deep and give them a place to rest while they're looking for food. Their other burrows are designated for both hibernating and bringing up youngsters. Ground squirrels on the whole often hibernate in the most frigid periods of the year.
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Ground Squirrels
- UC IPM Online: Ground Squirrel
- University of Illinois Extension: Ground Squirrel
- County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commissioners/Weights & Measures
- San Diego Zoo - Kids: Ground Squirrel
- Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage; Scott E. Hygnstrom
- Squirrels - The Animal Answer Guide; Richard W. Thorington, Jr. and Katie E. Ferrell
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images