Paiute Squirrel

Scientific name: Spermophilus mollis, (kennicott, 1863). It is taxonomic serial no.: 552504. Taxonomic notes: formally included in s. Richarsoniiand sometimes includes as a race spermophilus townsendii mollis. Includes citellus arizonensis
Classification: Sciuridae (family) ground squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots
Size: Approximately 20 centimeters (7 to 7 ¾ inches). Approximately 124 grams (4.3 ounces)
Life Span: Approximately 4 years and less


The paiute ground squirrels, also known as Great Basin Squirrel, are characterized by large cheek pouches opening inside their mouths, long tails, and hairy feet. Most are brownish or yellowish-gray with or without light spots, stripes or other markings on the upper back. The summer fur color is paler and brighter than the winter pattern. Most species molt two times per year, once in the spring and once in fall.


The main habitat of the paiute ground squirrels, as they are best known in nevada, is desert and oasis areas, sagebrush stands and cheatgrass lands.


Southeast oregon, snake river valley of idaho, nevada with limitations around the lake mead area, east-central california, and western utah.

Natural History:

The paiute ground squirrel is active during the day, but the species is not active year-round. They are often active only during the spring and the fall, becoming inactive during the hot dry summer and the cold winter. During the winter paiute ground squirrels hibernate or become inactive, depending on body fat. Their burrows that are only a few meters deep contain few openings and small chambers. It is not uncommon for non-related male squirrels to raid and attack the young squirrels of the same species.

Food Habits:

Omnivore. During spring and summer, the paiute ground squirrel eats grasses, seeds, crops, other vegetation, and sometimes meat. When feeding primarily on green vegetation they will eat the leaves, flowers, bulbs, roots, etc. Of desert scrub plants. In late summer and fall, they may eat more seeds, berries, and nuts. The paiute ground squirrel can cause a great deal of agricultural damage in some areas, due to its foraging on crops.


The species mates in late winter or early spring, and females produce a litter of five to ten young about 24 days after mating. Litter size averages about 6-7. In the lowlands, females usually produce one litter per year. The young are born hairless and their eyes are closed; they remain underground for about 8 weeks.

Fun Facts:

The paiute ground squirrel was a traditional source of food for some native americans.