Monday, June 5, 2017
Saturday I stopped at Winn Elementary to check on the native pollinator garden. While there, I noticed this little fellow running across the lawn. It's a Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus). I love Thirteen-line Ground Squirrels. They are extremely photogenic and curious little creatures. I grabbed my camera and walked to within about 15 feet of its burrow. I got down on my belly and waited for it to pop its head back up. Within seconds of lying down, there it was peering at me over the grass.
I took a few pictures and it ducked back down into its burrow. This was my chance to move closer. I quickly closed the distance to about 8 feet. Soon, the top of its head and an eye appeared through the grass.
The head appeared and disappeared a few times before emerging completely. It watched me for a minute or two before disappearing again.
Why would a ground squirrel keep popping up from its burrow to watch a potential predator?
It makes sense to keep an eye on a predator rather than disappearing into its burrow. If it drops into its burrow at the first sight of a predator, the predator may close the distance to the burrow and then wait in ambush for the squirrel to come out - this happens frequently. By keeping an eye on the predator, the squirrel is able to see if the predator poses an actual threat or if it is merely passing by. This doesn't always work out, but ground squirrels are prolific breeders having an average of ten young per year.