Last week Leonard and I were watching an Oregon ground squirrel (Spermophilus beldingi) at Tule Lake National Wildlife Reserve (Siskiyou County CA) when several small ground squirrels joined her. The juveniles were very active and kept racing around in the vicinity of their mother. However, occasionally one youngster would rush over to the mother, almost as though it needed reassurance, before joining its siblings again. Although I previously posted about Oregon ground squirrels (Oregon Ground Squirrel 06-25-14 and Early Emergence 03-07-18), I love this picture of a mother and her baby and have to share.
Depending on elevation Oregon ground squirrels, also called Belding ground squirrels and picket pins, spend as many as eight months a year in hibernation. In Northeastern California where we live, they usually emerge in March and begin hibernation in July. Mating occurs as soon as hibernation ends. Females are receptive only one day a year. Males crowd around the receptive female and she will mate with several males. Oregon ground squirrel litters are usually multiply sired.
A pregnant female will dig a nest burrow and line it with grasses and roots. After a 23 to 31 day gestation period 3 to 11 (average 5.7) young are born, with weaning in about 27 days. The babies are raised underground until emerging in mid-April as soon as the weather warms. The young females usually remain close to their natal nest, even after weaning, while the males immediately disperse.
The parent in this picture is a female. Immediately after copulation the males depart and leave all parenting duties to the female.
A synonym for S beldingi is Citellus beldingi.