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Meet Iowa’s sleepiest mammal

  • 1/15/2019 9:06:00 AM
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The thirteen-lined ground squirrel spends more of the year asleep than awake!  |  Iowa DNRThe thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus), colloquially known as “squinnies” in Iowa, spends more of the year asleep than awake. 

Adult thirteen-lined ground squirrels typically enter hibernation in August or September and emerge in April. Females may stay out longer in the fall than the males, and the young of the year will remain out longer than the adults.

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel is fairly easy to identify as, true to their name, they have a series of lines running down their back. Those tell-tale 13 stripes help distinguish this critter from Iowa's other ground squirrel, the eastern chipmunk.

Historically, they are a prairie species, but they have adapted well to pastures, hayfields, ditches, etc.

In fact, because they prefer shorter grass, they are known to do well on golf courses, grazed pastures, and mowed roadsides. During the summer they are relatively easy to spot on roadsides.

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels eat insects, seeds, grass, flowers and fruits. Their diet shifts throughout the season as different foods become available. Grasshoppers and caterpillars are very important and preferred foods and there is some evidence that thirteen-lined ground squirrels may play a regulatory role on grasshopper populations. They have also been observed eating small birds and other small mammals opportunistically.