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Ground Squirrels

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Ground squirrel in a yard

Ground Squirrel Information

Ground squirrels are most often confused with tree squirrels, which they resemble, or other burrowing animals such as moles and groundhogs. In addition to their bushier tails, tree squirrels can be differentiated from ground squirrels by their behavior. When alarmed, a tree squirrel’s first instinct will always be to climb.

On the other hand, ground squirrels are most likely to race for their burrows. What differentiates these pests from moles and groundhogs is mostly their size. Large and stocky, groundhogs reach around 20 inches in length, while moles are much smaller, at only about five inches long.

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What does a Ground Squirrel look like?

While ground squirrels vary in appearance based on their species, they have some features in common. Measuring between 6 and 11 inches long, these pests may have short or long furry tails, dark or light markings, and brown coats with hints of red or gray. They are distinguished from tree squirrels, a close relative, by their tails. While all ground squirrels have tails, none are quite as large and bushy as a typical tree squirrel’s. Behavior can also help to tell them apart. While a frightened ground squirrel will instinctively retreat to its burrow, tree squirrels escape by climbing.

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What does a Ground Squirrel eat?

Ground squirrels feed on a variety of both plant and animal materials, including insects, earthworms, young birds, mice, seeds, fruits, nuts, and plant roots or foliage. At the end of summer, these pests spend a considerable amount of time gathering and eating food to bulk up for the winter. Since most hibernate underground through the worst of the cold weather, they need fat reserves in order to survive. Most species will also store food in large, buried hoards.

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Ground Squirrel habitats

Some variety of ground squirrel can be found in most states, though they are particularly common in the western two-thirds of the country. Open grasslands, dry grain or hay fields, meadows, and pastures are their preferred habitats, though they also enjoy the well-watered and smooth ground of residential lawns. Here, they dig elaborate burrow systems that may be up to 4 feet below the soil and extend 30 feet or more in length.

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