Regional Offices > Green River Region > Critter Spotlight > Thirteen-lined ground squirrel

Thirteen-lined ground squirrel Thirteen-lined ground squirrel

This squirrel is a true hibernator!

Fun Critter Facts

One of several small ground squirrel species in Wyoming, the thirteen-lined ground squirrels have a series of (you guessed it) 13 alternating dark and light lines running down their backs.  Some of the lines are really a series of light spots leading to another common name of leopard ground squirrel.

Like many of its relatives, thirteen-lined ground squirrels consume a wide variety of foods, ranging from grass and forb seeds to insects, nestlings of ground nesting birds, shrews and small mice.  Much like many other ground squirrels and prairie dogs, they may occasionally resort to cannibalism if they encounter a dead or seriously incapacitated member of their species (e.g. roadkill).  Some food storage occurs for early fall, but eating does not occur during winter months.  

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels are true hibernators, entering hibernation following gorging (to fatten up) in September and October, and emerging in late April or early May.  During hibernation, respiration drops from 100+ per minute to 1 or less per five minutes, and heart rate slows by more than 75%.  They can lose up to 1/3 their total body weight before emerging. 

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels occur across Wyoming, especially in the Great Plains and central basins of Wyoming.  In SW Wyoming, this species is replaced with numerous other ground squirrel species in the western portion of the Green River Region, but it is common near Baggs and throughout the eastern 1/2 of the Green River region.

A burrowing species, this ground squirrel constructs tunnels a yard or more below the surface of the ground that may be in excess of 20 feet in length, and contain many branches and side passages.  Burrows are defended from other members of its species.  They are frequently observed standing erect (some folks call them "picket pins") at their burrow entrance and dart to safety quickly if alarmed.  Like many ground squirrel species, they are very vocal and are particularly vocal when danger is suspected.  They prefer areas of shortgrass or mixed grass-low density shrub habitats to aid in visibility.

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels, like most rodents, are quite prolific regarding the number of young produced, but most (sometimes upwards of 90%) never reach their first hibernation.  If it survives to adulthood, this species likely rarely sees its second or third year in the wild, falling prey to many species, ranging from weasels and badgers to foxes, coyotes, diurnal birds of prey, and snakes.    


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