Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels Plus Arithmetic

Nature Detectives

Add 6+7 and your answer is the number of light and dark stripes on ground squirrels with an odd name. The name truly is thirteen-lined ground squirrel. In addition to thirteen cute stripes, their fur has orderly little spots.

The cream-colored spots are more squarish than round, and they march in a line up the middle of each dark stripe. The spotted dark stripes and thinner light stripes stand out against a furry tan background. What a fancy coat on a tiny mammal!

Thirteen-lined ground squirrel

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels spend most of their time underground, out of sight. In late summer or early fall, the critters enter their winter burrows and plug the entrance shut. The burrows are deep so the temperature in their winter quarters never drops below freezing, no matter how frigid it is above ground. The little squirrels snooze through the winter, barely breathing.

Ground Squirrel Spring

Once spring arrives, their internal clock signals it is time to wake up. At first, like some sleepy kids on a school morning, the squirrels barely stir. They might visit their toilet room, but they snuggle back to sleep. While school kids may snatch a few minutes extra sleep, ground squirrels may doze for a few more days. But as the spring air grows warmer, the squirrels finally get excited to be out doing their squirrel work.

The male squirrels are the early risers. Their first spring job is getting their
digestive system working. The next task is finding mates. Some males already know the whereabouts of female neighbors’ burrows, and they hope to be ready and waiting when those neighbors wake up. Males will sometimes tussle with other males over territory or mates.

Continue Reading & Download the Print Edition

Nature Detectives Library

Every past issue of Nature Detectives can be found in the Nature Detectives Library!