Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

September 28, 2013

Thirteen-lined Seed Lover: Part 13

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 1:04 pm

No, this isn’t really part 13 –it is only part 2 and the final in a two part posting on the 13 lined Ground Squirrel (It just sounded good).  If I was a squirrel researcher I suppose I could have written a 13 part “War and Peace” version and it would have been riveting, let me tell you. But my scope and my knowledge  is much more limited in this case. That is not to say that this topic doesn’t deserve a few more words.

We’ve already spent time on the naming issue and established visually, and textually, that the bold patterning of the 13 liner acts as a perfect camouflage. For an animal that lives in open spaces this is a crucial feature since it is always subject to predation from coyotes, foxes, hawks and a whole host of Thirteen-lined Seed Lover Lovers. The chosen habitat consists of low grass fields located in sandy and well-drained soils. In nature such locations are called prairies and the original range of this squirrel was limited to the great central prairies and oak openings of the Midwest. The farming and mowing habits of humans have extended the animal’s range by carving ideal habitats out of the eastern woodlands.

Ground Squirrels, true to their name (yet again) are diggers. They perforate their chosen home space with a variety of burrows. Some are shallow escape tunnels while others lead to deeper nesting and storage chambers. The soil around a burrow entrance is fanned out so as not to stand out above the grass level. When constructed, these ground squirrels employ feet and even head tamping to pack and spread the soil – creating meandering furrows leading away from the entrance. My Wisconsin squirrels rarely ventured far from their burrows and were always within a body length of escape.

Surprisingly, however, they were not timid – allowing me to approach within a few feet before dashing into their refuge of safety.  Although it may be that they were frozen in fear, I believe part of this boldness stems from the fact that they know what is coming from a long way off and are rarely surprised.  Like tiny Meerkats, they will stand bolt upright to survey their environs.  Bulging eyes allow a somewhat panoramic view with a limited piece of vision behind their heads.

In this stance, and when examined close up, they look very much like Prairie Dogs (except in body décor, of course). They are related to them, so this is to be expected. Unlike “dogs” which are colonial town-dwelling beasts, thirteen-liners are basically solitary in habit. They will be found in groups only because they are mutually attracted to the same habitat (kinda like suburbanites who live in closely packed houses but rarely know their neighbor two doors down). Within their small family groups they will deliver Prairie Dog kisses to each other by touching noses.


Also like their Prairie Dog cousins TLGS have very small ears. For comparison, compare them with tree squirrels and chipmunks which have prominent “sticky outty” ears. For lack of a better word, I would venture to say that these ground squirrels have Cauliflower ears in the tradition of LaMancha goats. Having already stated that they have Prairie Dog ears it probably wasn’t necessary to bring up the goat comparison as well, but I’ve always liked LaMancha Goats and this was the first time in my blog that I had an opportunity to incorporate them.

In order to conclude this tome I’ll have to bring up that naming thing one more time. Even though Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels are truly “seed lovers” they actually trend toward the carnivorous side of the plate and are considered to be the most carnivorous of their clan. They frequently nab grasshoppers, eggs, or even flesh if it is available. So, after all this we must consider Carnophilus as yet another suitable genus name for the thirteen-lin……… I am getting tired of typing that name and trying to come up with suitable synonyms. In fact, I suspect you are getting a bit tired of reading about these Thirtee……things as well. So, let’s conclude while we can and retire in the knowledge that these…thir….er, little seed/meat lovers are fine little beasts. I will still, and always, call them Spermophilus tridecemlineatus no matter what the scientists say.

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