California Ground Squirrel

California ground squirrel lounging on a stone pillar of a fence.

NPS/Debbie Martinez

The California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) is a species of rodent found in a wide range of habitat ranging from southern Washington to northern California. This squirrel can be identified by its mottled fur with colors of dray, brown, and white. They have a large, bushy tail that also the same color characteristics and a white ring surrounding their eyes.

The California ground squirrel is known to eat a variety of foods in its diets such as nuts, seeds, berries, and insects found in its environment. They are known to hibernate in cold climates that experience snowfall, but in warmer, drier climates they can forage all year long. The California ground squirrel also can stuff multiple food stores in its cheeks to be used for eating on later dates.

These rodents also have been discovered to display a means of infrared communication with their predator rattlesnakes. When preyed upon by rattlesnakes, the California ground squirrel heats up its large, bushy tail to wag and intimidate rattlesnakes since they use their pit organ to detect infrared radiation. In effect, this behavior imitates being a larger prey, backing the predator down.

Last updated: August 5, 2018

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