Ground Squirrel - Xerus inauris

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Ground Squirrel - Xerus inauris | Tree Squirrel - Paraxerus cepapi

 


Afrikaans Waaierstertgrondeekhoring
Tswana Sekatamosima


Tracks
F 4cm
H 5cm

Distribution Dung
1.5cm

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

The incisor teeth are white but yellow in ground squirrels.

Male/Female Differences

The males are larger than the females

Habitat

Occurs over most of the south west arid zone where rainfall is 100-500 mm per year, extending eastward to areas receiving up to 750 mm. They prefer open ground with sparse bush and grass cover and need hard, compact ground in which to dig burrows.

Diet

A wide range of vegetable foods: leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, berries and bulbs. Also insects, especially fond of termites.

Reproduction

Breeds throughout the year mating in October. Gestation 42-49 days and bear litters of 1-4, usually 2. Eyes open at 35 days, first emerges from burrows after 40 days. Females usually have one litter per year; two if rainfall is very good. Preyed on by large raptors, jackals, cats and foxes. Yellow mongooses attack sick or injured ground squirrels.

Behavior and Habits

Active in the daytime and comes out of the burrow about an hour after sunrise in summer. When cold in winter, the lie in for an additional half hour.  When it is wet or windy they are less active and they stay underground during sand storms. They enjoy sunning in cold weather and lies flat in the shade, flicking sand onto its back. The long bushy tail is used as a sunshade to prevent over-heating. They dig their own burrows or appropriate those of suricates and yellow mongooses, or takes over and extends whistling rat warrens. Dry grass is gathered to make nests. Burrows are connected and are constantly modified and extended. Ground squirrels live in colonies of up to 30.

Colonies are made up of females and their young. A single aggressive and dominant female is most active in chasing away intruders. Nose-to-nose and anal sniffing are used for recognition.  Disputes occur in which they tail flicks and snarl, and they fight over food or when males visit them. Home range size is doubledin winter and spring when food is scarce. They scent mark their area with urine and by pressing the anus to the ground. Marking is also done by rubbing the of the muzzle on objects near burrow entrances. Females stay in the colony they were born in but young males leave and visit female groups for mating and stay only for a short while and then move on to another colony.

Alert and vigilant, they spend a a large part of their day looking out for danger. Snakes are mobbed until they leave the area. They tolerate suricates and yellow mongooses but drive off slender mongooses. At picnic sites ground squirrels become very tame and easy to observe. Ground squirrels respond to the alarm calls of birds.

Sounds

They make a high-pitched whistling call which rises to a scream when further alarmed. Also makes 'tschip-tschip' calls when play-chasing and play-fighting.

Dung and Field sign

Pellets of 1.5 cm. Warrens with tunnels about 14 cm wide and 11 cm high.

 



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