Feeding California Ground Squirrel

California Ground Squirrel

A California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) sitting on rock eating looks so cute. This ground squirrel was intently enjoying his meal on the shore of F Reservoir in Modoc County CA.

California grounds squirrels are mostly herbivores, although they will occasionally take insects. Generally their spring diet consists of green vegetation (leaves, bulbs, roots and flowers) while later in the season grains, fruits, nuts and mushrooms are added to their diet. I was not able to determine what this fellow was eating.

Adult California ground squirrels are active only a few months out of the year. The range of California ground squirrels is Oregon, California and the Baja Peninsula. More recently their range expanded slightly into Washington and Western Nevada. Where they live determines the length of hibernation, with populations in warmer climates remaining above ground longer than those is cooler habitats.

California ground squirrels, also commonly called Beechey ground squirrels, exhibit “true” hibernation – their heart rate decreases to about 1/10th normal and they only take a breath once every few minutes. Still, they awaken from their hibernation every four or five days for a short period to eat food stored in their burrows and utilize their “bathroom” chamber.

Adult male California ground squirrels go underground in early summer. In late summer after the young are finished nursing, adult females join the males underground. Adults are active only a few months of the year. Those California ground squirrels above ground in the fall and winter are usually young squirrels.

The little size depends to a large extent on climate, although predator pressure and the time spent above ground also have an effect. California ground squirrel litters in Southern California, where the temperatures are warmer, average 8.4 pups per litter, while in Central Oregon where it is cooler, litters are smaller averaging 5.5 pups per littler.

Originally California ground squirrels were classified as Spermophilus beecheyi. In 2009 the genus was changed to Otospermophilus, with the species designation remaining the same.


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