Saturday, May 28, 2011

13-lined Ground Squirrel

Although I always knew that Minnesota is "the Gopher State," and that the University of Minnesota fields "The Golden Gophers," I had no clue those gophers are Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels!  (Those of you not familiar with what a UM golden gopher looks like can click here for an illustration and history.)  Notice the mascot's tail stripes are vaguely similar to a Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel.

I photographed this Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel as it emerged from hibernation at the end of April at the River Bend Nature Center at Faribault.  These rodents are diurnal and eat seeds and a variety of small invertebrates.  They can damage gardens but also consume weed seeds, harmful insects, and even mice and shrews. 

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels become fat during the fall and store food in their shallow burrows.  By October they enter a special, deep hibernation chamber.  During hibernation,  their respiration decreases from about 150 to one breath per minute (Wikipedia). Getting fat and sleeping are probably excellent strategies for surviving Minnesota winters, but are probably ill-advised for succeeding in one's university career.

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