What do you thing an Arctic Ground Squirrel looks like?
This squirrel is the biggest of all the squirrels. He has reddish brown fur in spring and gray brown fur in winter.
Where they are found
The Arctic ground squirrel is found in Northern America from Alaska in the north to British Columbia in the south.
He lives in the north of Russia.
What do they look like
The Arctic ground squirrel has brown fur with white spots in the fur. It is white underneath.
Their legs are stubby. They have four toes on each foot. Their claws are strong, they are good diggers.
They weigh between 524 -1500 grams and measure 332mm – 495 mm.
Where do they live
The Arctic ground squirrel lives with other squirrels in a group of between five or fifty.
There will be one dominant male in charge. This male will guard his territory from other males.The ground squirrel keeps busy, it feeds from the early morning till the evening.
He likes to live in open meadows, river valleys and sub alpine zones. During the summer the Arctic ground squirrel stores up dry grass and nuts for winter.
The Arctic ground squirrel is an omnivore. He eats insects, bird’s eggs, berries, moss and lichen. He may even eat the baby squirrels if the mother is not looking after them.
The mating season begins straight after hibernation. One male mates with several females.
If he does not guard his mate she may go and mate with other males. After three to six weeks the babies are born.
The squirrels have one litter a year of about six to eight babies.The babies are called kittens and have no fur or teeth. They have skin over their eyes.
They grow up quickly. After twenty eight to thirty five days they start to feed themselves.
The Arctic ground squirrel makes many different sounds. A low sound warns of a land predator.
A high sound means a bird of prey is near.The most interesting behavior of this squirrel is his long hibernation time.
The Arctic ground squirrel hibernates for seven months of the year.
The time of hibernation starts from September or October until March or April the following year.
The female Arctic squirrel hibernates earlier and keeps safe from predators.
During hibernation the Arctic ground squirrel can lower its body temperature to below freezing. This is called ‘super cooling.’
They have a special part of their body that makes them warm up during hibernation.
It is known as BAT, Brown Adipose Tissue.
It makes a special kind of fat that warms the squirrel up during hibernation. Then after warming up for a while he goes back to sleep.
Predators and dangers
The Arctic ground squirrel is hunted for its fur. The fur of this squirrel is used used by the North American Inuit tribes to trade and use for clothing.
People have taken over some of the places the squirrels used to live in for growing crops and building houses.
This means there is less space for the squirrels.
There are many larger animals and birds that catch the ground squirrels. Golden eagles, gyrfalcon, Arctic fox, red fox, grizzly bears, wolverines and lynx prey on Arctic ground squirrels.
Contribution to nature
The Arctic ground squirrel is a food source for many animals where it lives.
These squirrels are known as soil engineers, as they dig burrows and add air and nutrients to the soil.
Arctic Ground Squirrel Facts
1.The Arctic ground squirrel has several nicknames.
2.He is known as ‘tsik tsik’ in Alaska because of the noises he makes. He is also called the ‘parka squirrel’ because his fur is used to make jackets.
3.In the Yukon he is called a gopher.
4.One of his clever tricks is known as the tundra glide. He flattens his body and slides across the ground so he can’t be seen so easily.
5.The Arctic ground squirrel has the longest hibernation time of any animal and his body temperature drops to the lowest of any mammal.
Dominant: The strongest, important squirrel.
Lichen: Two living things called alga and fungus live together on a plant.
Parka: A cold weather coat with a fur lined hood.
What did you Learn?
1.What are the Arctic ground squirrels nicknames?
They are known as ‘tsik tsik, parka squirrels and gopher.
2.What is the tundra glide?
The tundra glide is the way the squirrel slides across the ground to avoid being noticed.
3.How do these squirrels help their environment?
The squirrels provide food for other animals and their burrows help improve the soil.
4.What is the most amazing part of their hibernation habits?
The Arctic ground squirrel can drop its body temperature to the lowest of any mammal and sleep for the longest time of any hibernating animal.
5.What is the name of a baby squirrel and what does it look like when it is born?
Baby squirrels are called kittens. The have no fur or teeth, skin covers their eyes.
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