Curious about those tiny semi bushy-tailed Squirrels roaming around your garden?
At first sight, ground squirrels may look like fox squirrels, but they are totally different. Squirrels that live on or in the ground are basically known as ground squirrels. They are similar to tree squirrels, but they make a hole under a tree or pole on the ground and live inside their burrows rather than staying on trees. Though ground squirrels can also climb up to trees. But, when they are scared they will always rush to their burrows or holes. On the other hand, a tree squirrel will always climb up to a tree or a pole or any upper place.
How Can You Identify Them?
Ground squirrels have specific body structures and behavior for their Identification.
Ground squirrels collect grass from aboveground and rush to their holes, so it’s not that much hard to identify them, other ways are:
- Body length is 9 to 11 inches without the tail.
- Have a semi bushy tail that adds 5 to 9 inches in length.
- Have brownish wool marked with off-white.
- Rarely travel more than 52 meters from their burrow.
- If there is snow in their living place, they might go hibernate. If there is no snow they will remain active.
Habitat and Behavior
Ground squirrels make their own burrow for living. But they also use a lot of natural habitats. They make their holes using their claws, they sleep in there, rest in there, store food in there. In their holes, they make a colony and several dozen animals live together in a hole. They remain active during the day, from morning to late afternoon. During winter, ground squirrels become isolated. Especially the adults become inactive totally, this period is called hibernation.
What Do They Eat?
Well, ground squirrels are mainly vegetarian. But they can change their diet according to season and their need.
When they come out of hibernation, they live on grass and other herbivorous plants. Usually, they also eat fruits, nuts, seeds, crops, etc for their living.
“OHH, Thank god ground squirrels are totally vegetarian, We don’t need to worry about our little pets!!!”
If you think that these creatures are completely vegetarian, I am afraid I might disappoint you now. A recent survey shows when there is a food shortage, these little creatures become fond of flesh. When there is a food deficit they can eat insects, vertebrates, baby birds, and carrion. So it’s better to be careful about your little pets.
Let’s talk about these squirrels hunting weapons.
Ground Squirrels mainly work and attack with their sharp claws and teeth.
- Claws: They have sharp claws in their legs which help them in running, changing direction, grabbing their food, digging holes, etc. It serves as an important tool, in their daily works.
- Teeth: Anterior of ground squirrels incisors is shaded with hard orange enamel. Squirrels teeth have a remarkable cutting edge that helps them to break hard nut-shells, and in taking down their hunt. And have a nice growing rate of 6 inches per year.
But having a nice tooth growing rate can be a curse sometimes. Some recent cases show that ground squirrels incisors might overgrow sometimes. Which is very distressing for them.
If everything goes well, they get their baby teeth at first, later they get their adult teeth, which do not regrow if lost.
When Do They Have Newborns?
Ground squirrels breed once in a year. Let’s talk about their breeding.
Although other members of the squirrel family breed two times in a year, ground squirrels breed only once in a year. Female squirrels give birth to 7 to 8 litter in this process.
Breeding time may vary a little with the location. In hilly areas breeding time starts after April, in southern California breeding time starts in December, in the central valley, the time is from February to April. During this breeding period, adults become very active, just to attract female ones. Baby squirrels remain completely dependent on their mothers for the first 5 to 7 weeks. After that, they can roam near their burrow.
Are They Harmful to Us?
Technically ground squirrels do not attack humans. But they can be harmful in other ways. Ground squirrels do a lot of damage to your plants, fruits, seeds, grains, little pets, etc. Sometimes they carry diseases which might be very harmful to you and your family members. So it’s better, not to have these creatures in your property.
But How Can We Control Them?
Controlling ground squirrels is not as easy as you think. It needs a proper strategic plan and method to cease them. Let’s find out some effective measures to control ground squirrels.
It’s going time squirrels!!!
Ways to constrain Ground Squirrels:
Controlling methods mainly depend upon specific life cycle and behavior of squirrels. So, at first
Observe their movement and make your plan then approach strategically. Here are some ways which might be effective in controlling them.
- Traps: Traps have always been a great solution in catching animals. It is also effective for ground squirrels. But you need to choose and set up the right trap in the right place. There are several traps known to be successful in catching squirrels such as,
- Square Trap: use a square shape box, bait it, and put it in a running way of the squirrels.
- Pipe Shaped or Tunnel Traps: Use it in the face of the burrow, and make sure the bait is well arranged behind the trigger. Use oil to make the trap slippery.
- Conibear Trap: Dig a medium depth hole and place your trap and put some leaves over your trap along with some nuts and fruits, then wait for the result.
If you stick with the same trap a couple of times, you might not get the desired result. Because sooner or later, they will learn about the repeated trap. So try to bring a change when making your move with traps. Manage your traps with protective gear and with great care.
So, put your trap away from toddlers and pets.
- Poison: Whenever it comes to catching or stopping animals, Poisons have always been praised, since early times. If it’s dry season, mix poison along with nuts, seeds, or grains and place it near their holes. This might give you a more favorable outcome.
- Use Predator Urine to Repel Them: Ground Squirrels see coyotes as their reaper. As a result, the scent of coyotes urine terrifies them. Spread it along your property line, fence, under plants, near the burrow of squirrels. Being afraid they might run away from your garden. They are very sensitive to this scent.
- Use Pepper Spray: Pepper spray makes uncomfortable almost every animal. Ground squirrels also find pepper as an irritating material. So you can use pepper spray to drive them away from your property.
- Use Electronic Sound Repeller: Nowadays you can find some electrical sound repellers in the market. These can be a better option. These devices work both in AC power and DC power supply. This means you can use these devices using batteries also. Also, there is a manual turn on or turn off the option in these devices.
But How Does This Work??
These devices have some kind of ultrasonic sound system that irritates squirrels very much. But if you use it aboveground and squirrels remain in their burrows then this technique won’t work. So use these devices in the day, when they are searching for their food.
- Use Gas Technique: Sulphur Gas has a great effect on animals, It suffocates them. Use it in the burrow of ground squirrels. If there are many openings in their burrow, fill them up. Just keep two openings in the hole. Put sulfur gas through one opening. In a few minutes, they will feel suffocated and will come out of their burrow. Being afraid of your move they will run away from your property.
Are chipmunks the same as ground squirrels?
Chipmunks almost look like ground squirrels, but they are not the same. Both chipmunks and ground squirrels have body stripes. Chipmunks have head stripes also, but ground squirrels don’t have those on the head. Food habits are almost similar for both of them, but chipmunks like small plants mostly, whereas ground squirrels have different food habits depending on the season.
For the ecosystem, little mammals are always valuable. In recent days the number of ground squirrels is decreasing alarmingly. If these little creatures are irritating you, try to catch them instead of killing them. Employ traps to catch them. If traps are not working for them, then use any effective repeller stated above. If your moves do not bring any change, then hire any professional to drive these squirrels away. Ground squirrels carry many kinds of diseases too, so it’s better not to have them in your property. Catch them and drive them away. Stay safe!!