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Ground Squirrel

wildlife of Namibia

Introduction: The ground squirrel (Xerus inauris) like its close relative the mountain ground squirrel, has no tree-dwelling tendencies and is therefore a ground living species. It has a characteristic long-haired tail, which when swung up along the back and rear of the head, presents a fan like appearance, due to the flattening of the hair, that also acts as a sunshade.

They have a preference for open terrain with sparse bush cover and avoid areas of loose sand which makes burrow construction difficult. They are diurnal and gregarious, living in colonies of about 30 in warrens with multi-entrances. These complicated underground systems can be recognized by the burrows eventually being raised above ground level. The building and re-building of new burrows and tunnels are a constant activity for ground squirrels.

The social organization is based upon a group of several females with their offspring. The adult males do not remain with one group, preferring to move around when the female is on heat. Ground squirrels only emerge from their burrows in the morning, well after the sun is up and retire before the sun sets. This is widely believed to be because their burrows retain a stable temperature.

Distribution: They are widely distributed in Namibia, except in the extreme north-west and are absent in the coastal areas and in regions of the south-west and north-east.

Diet: Their main food consists of the leaves and stems of grasses, seeds, bulbs, roots and plant stems. Although ground squirrels are predominantly vegetarians, their diet does include some insects as well.

Colouring: The upper parts are cinnamon in colour, with some individuals either a shade darker of lighter. They have a characteristic white lateral stripe, one on either side of the body and white rings around the eyes. The fan-like tail has long hair, broadly black at the base, then white, then black with broad white tips.

Breeding: Ground squirrels have their young at any time throughout the year. The gestation period is between 42 to 49 days. Females have a single litter once a year, with 1 to 3 young, who are born blind and naked.

Size: Adults are about 45cm in overall length including the tail, which measures around half of the total size. They have an average mass of about 600g. Females are slightly smaller and lighter.

Wildlife Namibia

  • Namibian Wildlife: Ground Squirrel
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