Columbian ground squirrel

(Spermophilus columbianus)


Columbian ground squirrel IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The Columbian ground squirrel is a typical souslik. It is mostly grey, underparts are yellow-orange. It has a bushy tail which has a length of 8-12 cm. Total length is 30-40 cm and it weights from 350 to 800 g, depending on season.


Columbian Ground Squirrels live in large colonies. Both males and females are territorial. Males defend a small core area within their home range, trying to keep other males from access to females. Females defend areas where their nest burrows are located. Both sexes mark their territories with scent glands located at the edge of the mouth, side of the head, and back.


Columbian ground squirrel hibernate for seven to eight months of the year and do not awake to eat stored food during their hibernation. The reproduction season is shortly after hibernation. After a gestation period of 24 days the female gives birth to, in May or June, to one litter of 2–7 young (average 3 or 4).


The Columbian Ground Squirrel eats a wide variety of food, including grasses, plant stems and leaves, seeds, bulbs and tubers, insects, birds and other small vertebrates. Especially when in large colonies, these squirrels sometimes damage grainfields.

Did you know?
That the Columbian Ground Squirrel feeds only for about 130 days a year? The rest of the year is spent in hibernation. The squirrel has to consume about 17 per cent of its body weight each day before going to sleep. Otherwise it wouldn't survive the winter.


Name (Scientific) Spermophilus columbianus
Name (English) Columbian ground squirrel
Name (French) Spermophile du Columbia
Name (German) Columbia-Ziesel
Name (Spanish) Ardilla de Columbia
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range In parts of the Rocky Mountains: Canada (Alberta, British Columbia), USA (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington)
Habitat Alpine meadows and grasslands, from about 200 to 2400 m.
Wild population Unknown, but not endangered. Some ranchers and farmers consider Columbian Ground Squirrels pests, and this has lead to their decline in some areas.
Zoo population 1 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Columbian 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


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Why do zoos keep this animal

Being diurnal and social, the souslik is a good species for educational purposes and an ideal ambassador for its grassland habitat.