Sunday, March 1, 2015

Richardson's Ground Squirrels

The lingering effects of a semi-serious bout of some sort of stomach bug coupled with seesawing winter/spring/winter weather has left us lethargic, and under-interested in school work.  Fortunately, nature has once again come to the rescue with a free, low prep, highly entertaining science lesson, that we've been able to observe through pretty much every window in the house.

At first we thought the cute little creature scampering through our yard, and digging holes in the vacant lots around us were prairie dogs.  That would have been pretty awesome, because I have the perfect book to go with prairie dogs for a history tie in...

...but a quick check of the Montana Fish and Wildlife site pointing us back into the Montana Field Guide, and then a quick viewing of the "Just Little Varmits" episode of Wild America on Amazon Prime (non-affiliate link)...

...convinced us that we have Richardson's ground squirrels rather than prairie dogs.  Either way, they are terribly cute to watch.   And, not feeling up to much else, we've been watching them quite a lot.  So far we've learned that Richardson's ground squirrels:

  • come out of hibernation in February (babies should start appearing sometime in June)
  • live in groups, and seem to be fairly prolific
  • eat grass, and look for water in the downspouts of houses

  • dig lots and lots of burrows (making them unpopular with our pellet gun toting neighbors)

  • run very fast, with a funny little back-leg-up kind of hop

  • are not afraid to come right up on our back patio to check things out, as long as they think no one is watching

  • also are not afraid to run out in front of cars (unfortunately for them)
  • are drawing the attention of couple of hungry looking hawks
  • and are terribly, terribly cute.  
I might have already mentioned that last one, but really they are cute.  And, as so far they've chosen to dig their holes in the vacant lots, and have left our yard in tact, they are a welcome diversion from stomach bugs, and snowy days.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Natalie PlanetSmartyPants said...

How interesting! I hope you all feel better soon!

Phyllis said...

I have never heard of them before. They really do look like Prairie dogs. Hope you all feel better soon.

Angelic Scalliwags said...

I'm sorry you've all been ill. I had wondered. I missed your posts (but no pressure!!). Hope you are all feeling tip top in no time!

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I have seen prairie dogs quite a few times driving across the US as a kid, but I never heard of or saw ground squirrels. Those guys are cute!

I hope your family gets well and stays well!

Ticia said...

The tail looks longer then prairie dogs I've seen. They sure do look fun though.

sunflowerous said...

oh my, these are indeed very cute! I've never heard of these, very interesting to learn more.