Sunday, December 16, 2012

Squirrel Facts: The Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel is probably the second most common native squirrel in the area of west Texas where we live. It is a small ground squirrel, measuring about ten inches in length including its three inch tail, and weighing only about six ounces on average. Its size and appearance is somewhat similar to a chipmunk, with tan or light brown sides, face, and belly. What sets this squirrel apart is the striking set of thirteen stripes, alternating light and dark, that run from the forehead down the back to the base of the tail. Five of the light-colored stripes are broken into a series of dots.

The range of the thirteen-lined ground squirrel includes most of the plains and prairie regions of southern Canada and the United States, extending as far south as west and central Texas. It is less social than many ground squirrels, adults living alone or in small colonies. Like most ground squirrels, it digs burrows for shelter. The burrow is complex, with several entrances and the main passage extending twenty feet or more in length. The entrances are inconspicuous, often covered with grass or other vegetation. This squirrel only ventures outside in full daylight, does not stray far from its burrow, and frequently stands up to survey its surroundings for danger.

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels hibernate through the winter. Depending on the region, they may begin hibernation as early as late July or as late as October, emerging anywhere from March to May depending on the region.

The diet of the thirteen-lined ground squirrel includes both plants and animals. Plant foods include seeds, grasses, herbs, flower heads, and grains. Meat makes up a substantial portion of the diet, including grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, worms, mice, and even small birds. These squirrels are known to viciously attack and devour cicadas when available. Dried seeds are stored in the burrows to carry them through the period in early spring when they awake from hibernation.

I took this photo of a thirteen-lined ground squirrel
in Lubbock, TX in May 2012
Mating takes place about two weeks after the end of hibernation, and results in anywhere from two to thirteen offspring. The young are blind and hairless at birth and weigh only 3-4 grams (1/10 of an ounce). They are weaned about six weeks after birth and after that are fully independent from their mother.


  1. I work for the Franklin County Metro Parks in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently investigating re-introducing the thirteen -lined ground squirrel to our bison area. I have been unable to find any information about introducing the ground squirrel besides general information.

    Any information or advice regarding this would be appreciated.

    James Jones

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