Common Signs of Ground Squirrels

July 15, 2023

What Are Ground Squirrels?

Ground squirrels are terrestrial rodents that live in large colonies in underground burrows. They are omnivores so they mostly eat vegetation, nuts, seeds, and plant material but they occasionally eat insects and other small animals. Ground squirrels have 9-11 inch long bodies with long, slender tails. They are typically a mottled grey/brown color in order to better blend in with their habitats.

Ground Squirrels:

     Ground Squirrel close up     Ground Squirrel on rocks

Ground Squirrel Activity

The most common sign of ground squirrel activity is the large open burrows they create – often in hillsides or under trees. These burrows tend to be about grapefruit sized or larger. They are active during the day and are often seen outside of their burrows scavenging for food or running from hole to hole.

Examples of Ground Squirrel Burrows:

      Ground Squirrel holes near tree     

Plant Damage

Ground squirrels are primarily herbivores but have been known to eat insects from time to time. They will mostly go after plant matter though so they can do damage to landscapes and gardens.


Ground Squirrel Habits

You will most often see ground squirrels on the surface, generally near their burrows but they are capable of climbing trees. If the squirrels you are seeing have large bushy tails and primarily stay in the trees then those are tree squirrels. Tree squirrels also tend to be a warmer brown in color.

Ground Squirrel vs Tree Squirrel:

Ground Squirrel close up     Tree Squirrel in Tree

Ground squirrels are very social so they tend to live in colonies ranging from just a few to 20 or more squirrels. They only have litters once a year but they can have 5-8 young per litter so if you have a large adult colony they can produce a large amount of offspring.

It does not get quite cold enough in the Bay Area for ground squirrels to need to hibernate but they will stay in their burrows more often during the colder, wetter months. They are most active during the warmer seasons and during the mornings and afternoons.

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