European Souslik, European Ground Squirrel

(Spermophilus citellus)


European Souslik, European Ground Squirrel IUCN VULNERABLE (VU)


Facts about this animal

The European souslik is a small, marmot-like animal with a relatively slender body and short legs. It has a head-body length of 19-22 cm and a body-weight of 230-340 g. The ears are short and the tail is relatively long (55-75 mm). The fur is yellow-grey and unspotted or only indistinctly spotted on the upper parts. The belly is yellow, the chin and the throat are white.


The sousliks hibernate. They are almost entirely diurnal animals. They inhabit dry, open steppes with loamy, lime-rich soil. Secondarily they are found in meadows and fields.


They are social animals that inhabit sometimes complicated tunnel systems.


European sousliks mate only once a year. After a gestation period of 25-26 days, a litter of 2-9 young is born. The offspring are naked at birth with the eyes and the ears closed. The weaning period is about 30 days. They reach sexual maturity in one year.


The diet of the European souslik consists primarily of plant material, including nuts, seeds, and grains; however, individuals may also consume small invertebrates, small vertebrates, and bird's eggs.

Did you know?
That the European souslik is the only European representative of the genus Spermophilus? Other species of the genus are found in Asia, but most of them in North America, where they range from Mexico to Alaska.


Name (Scientific) Spermophilus citellus
Name (English) European Souslik, European Ground Squirrel
Name (French) Souslik d'Europe, Spermophile d'Europe
Name (German) Europäischer Ziesel
Name (Spanish) Suslik europeo
Local names Czech: Sysel obecný
Hungarian: Közönséges ürge
Polish: Susel moregowany
Serbo-Croatian: Tekunica
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
BS Thurner Hof



Range Central and southern Europe
Habitat Steppes and meadows with low vegetation
Wild population Unknown, but decreasing (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 128 reported to ISIS

In the Zoo

European Souslik, European Ground Squirrel


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 79 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
BS THurner Hof

Why do zoos keep this animal

The European souslik has lost a significant part of its habitat and has disappeared from many places within its former range. Currently a reintroduction project for which zoos provide animals is being undertaken in Poland. Being diurnal and social, the souslik is a good species for educational purposes and an ideal ambassador for its threatened grassland habitat.