Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Iowa's relative of the Prairie Dog -Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

Isn't that  a cute little face?

Popping out of the burrow to check on Passersby

Adaptation for Camouflaging
This morning I caught this individual as it turned it's back on me. Color adaptations for remaining illusive seems to be working here. These little four footed creatures have taken over from one end of the crop ground/pastures to the far ends of the timber.
It is hard to believe that they can be so prolific with the predators and raptors that call this area home.

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel Doe  

This picture was taken September 28th, 2011 along our drive as I went to pick-up the mail. She sat and stared - changing position occasionally. Tiring of my visit she returned to the safety of her burrow.

Statistically they say the little does have one litter of pups a year, in the spring.

My curiosity about how the family units and individuals are titled sent me on a web search.

I found out that the babies are called 'pups, kit or kittens'. The female of the group is called a doe, the males are bucks. Goodness! They sure do have a size difference from Whitetails we usually associate with does and bucks.

With the unseasonably warm temperatures I am wondering if they will start their families soon?

A few years ago I started hearing what I thought was a different bird around the house, only to find that it was their call, a high-pitched trill. I now know what to look for when I hear it...

This collection of ground squirrel mounds is only a small representative of the total picture. I have discovered they like the shorter grass of the lawn along the drive.

Their burrowing has created some slow going when driving in a strip of ground between some  fields. It is wise to drive at a snails pace in case the opening have been covered by taller grass growth...don't want to flatten the tires.

The ground is lacking in moisture and makes digging a very easy task...These are freshly disturbed openings to additional tunnels. New mounds in the spring are the first indications they are waking up for the season.

Our property is also host to the Ground Hog, which I had associated with some of the larger holes. However, my observations revealed a different story.

As strange as it might seem these little Ground Squirrels are related to the Prairie Dog,

I had the opportunity to catch this Prairie Dog sunning in a colony, while my Hubby and I drove through the Black Hills of South Dakota, back in September of 2007. They too had created some problems for farmers and animal grazers at the time of our last visit. It appears maybe now they have gained some acceptable populations.

I am always grateful for October to arrive in this case, because the Ground Squirrels, cute as they might be, disappear for a few months...

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