Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus)
Small squirrel with thirteen white lines on its back (hence the name) with white spots and a somewhat bushy tail
Length: Body- 6-11 in. Tail- 2-5 in.
Weight: ¼ to ¾ lbs
Range: Much of central North America from northern Saskatchewan to Texas
Diet: grass seeds, leaves, insects, bird eggs, and carrion
Mating: mate shortly after spring emergence, month-long gestation period. 7-14 young born blind and hairless.
Life Expectancy: 90% (!) of newborns die from predation before their first winter. After that, avg. lifespan of 2-4 years.
The Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel is the most visible rodent resident of the Arb’s restored prairies. They are social, but only share burrows with other individuals during the breeding season. They are true hibernators, usually emerging in early to mid-April just as the first plants are starting to emerge.
You can usually see a few standing upright at the edge of the mowed trails in the Arb, quickly darting back into their well-hidden burrows once spotted. These squirrels have a similar role to tree squirrels in forest ecosystems. They collect seeds in their cheek pouches to store for later, and sometimes (though obviously not their “intention”) these seeds are forgotten about and sprout to form new patches of grass and forbs.
Like those of other burrowing mammals in the prairie, their burrows can often be home to various insects, frogs, toads, and snakes. They are a preferred prey of badgers, weasels, and hawks, and serve as an important part of a grassland ecosystem. See if you can spot these adorable little rodents once the snow melts in spring!