|A Thirteen-lined Groundsquirrel|
The Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel enters hibernation as early as September and does not emerge until April, spending between 6 and 8 months below ground. During this time, its heart rate drops from around 200 beats per minute to 4 or 5 beats per minute. Despite the reduced metabolic rates,a hibernating Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel will lose up to fifty percent of its body weight. This weight loss is not insignificant when the Ground Squirrel weighs at most 9 ounces.
|A closer view - note the alternating dark and light stripes, with light spots in the dark stripes|
Named after the thirteen alternating dark and light lines on its back, the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel is a native of shortgrass prairies throughout the central United States and Canada. It is found from Texas in the south to Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the north. From east to west it ranges from Michigan and Ohio to Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.
In Mid-Michigan, the easiest place to find them is in cemeteries and parks. They are very common in Riverside Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant. Look for small round holes around headstones and 2 inch wide runways through the lawn. Watch for them standing on their hind legs, with their forelegs tucked to their chest. This posture allows them to see over the grass and keep an eye out for predators.
Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels will often from loose colonies, each ground squirrel will have its own burrow but individuals will interact during the day. Young ground squirrels often dig burrows near their mother, extending the size of the colony.
Like other squirrels, the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel is an omnivore. It eats a variety of grasses and other green plants, seeds, insects, eggs from ground-nesting birds, and sometimes mice. My wife has a ground squirrel that frequently visits her birdfeeders to forage for seeds on the ground.
|A Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel standing on its hind legs|
Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel
Size: 6-8” long
Weight: 4-9 ounces