Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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ONE OF THE MOST CONSPICUOUS small desert animals that a visitor is likely to encounter at Death Valley National Monument is the antelope ground squirrel. This little rodent makes its home in the dry arid plains of the desert where the rainfall is scant and vegetation sparse. It is easy to recognize by the manner it carries its tail curved up over its back when it runs or flees from danger. The similarity of its white tail to the white rump patch of the pronghorn is the character that gives this animal its name of antelope ground squirrel. This squirrel has a total length of about 8-1/2 inches; tail about 3 inches. It is slightly larger than the chipmunk found in the eastern United States. There is a single long white stripe down each side of its body; the tail is short, flat, and narrow.

The antelope ground squirrel has internal cheek pouches which serve as pockets to carry the seeds of desert plants. These seeds are stored up in times of harvest against the many long months when green vegetation is sparse. Another character of this animal is its fine call note. This call note reminds me of the katydid and frequently I have mistaken it for that of some insect.

These squirrels are said to have more than one litter of young a season. However, it has been my experience that normally one litter numbering from 3 to 8 is the average family raised by this species.

The antelope ground squirrel has a roving disposition and travels over several acres in the course of its day's search for food, but it usually has a definite home burrow to which it returns at night. Many times I have seen what appeared to be a bit of white cotton or down blowing along on the ground, but investigation proved that it was the white tail of an antelope ground squirrel. The gray body of this little animal blended so completely with the desert sand that all but the tail was practically invisible at a short distance. One that I followed at Wildrose Canyon, Death Valley National Monument eluded me for hours by keeping a bush between us. Ultimately, however, I was fortunate enough to secure a photograph when the animal ran across a rock pile and stopped momentarily to view its pursuer.


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Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010