Rock Squirrel

Rock Squirrel

Scientific Name: Spermophilus variegatus, (erxleben, 1777). It is taxonomic serial no.: 180163. Taxonomy notes: formerly known as citellus variegatus and citellus grammulus.
Classification: Sciuridae (family) ground squirrels, marmots, and chipmunks
Size: Approximately 20 centimeters (7 to 7 ¾ inches) Approximately 124 grams (4.3 ounces)
Life Span: Approximately 4 years and less 

 

Description:

Spermophilus variegatus are larger in size and have a mottled or variegated pattern on upper parts. They molt once in the summer. Their fur is a typical grayish-white and a variegated brown pattern. These squirrels can be confused with races of darker shade in utah. The characteristic large cheek pouches and hairy feet are light in color.

 

Habitat:

Rock squirrels are nearly always associated with rocky habitats such as cliffs, canyon walls, talus slopes, boulder piles, and hills along highways. Burrows are found around boulders and travel to near by plant communities for feeding.

 

Range:

Southern nevada, utah, colorado, the panhandle of oklahoma, arizona, new mexico, and western texas.

 

Natural History:

The well-named rock squirrel is shy and often seen sitting on or running among rocks. They are active in early morning and late afternoon, it sometimes aestivates (becomes dormant) in hot weather. Rock squirrels are colonial. They organize themselves into maternal families at the main den, with a dominant male at peripheral locations. Often dens are created around desert springs and irrigated fields. The dominant male defends the colony from other males, but allows females and juveniles to move about freely. Unlike most ground squirrels, males are not in full breeding condition upon emergence from hibernation, but are ready soon thereafter.

 

Food Habits:

Omnivore. The rock squirrel will climb bushes and trees nearly as well as tree squirrels to feed on the fruit of juniper or mesquite bushes. It gathers nuts, seed of mesquite, cacti, agaves, and many other plants. Unlike some squirrels, they consume them immediately or hold them in their cheek pockets to store them back at the den.

 

Breeding:

Rock squirrels sleep and rear young in the underground burrows or dens, which are dug deep under protective object (log, rock, building, bush) if available, or in the open. Their extensive burrow systems hold the young in a nest chamber where they were born. Breeding occurs soon after hibernation, mid january to late april. In the lowlands, females usually produce one litter of six per year.

 

Fun Facts:

This species has a sharp, clear, sometimes quavering whistle; its alarm call is short, followed by a lower-pitched trill.