Arctic Ground Squirrel

The Arctic ground squirrel (Spermophilus parryii) is unique in being the only known mammal capable of lowering its body temperature to below freezing, a strategy which helps it survive through the long, Arctic winter. These aren’t the type of squirrels that you’ll typically see in your backward eating off your squirrel feeder. They are typically only found in the arctic.

Meaning of scientific name
‘Spermophilus’ means ‘seed loving’. The squirrel is named after Dr Parry – a 19th century explorer.

Subspecies
8 subspecies.

Statistics
33-50cm long and 530-816g in weight.

Physical Description
Arctic ground squirrels have a rich reddish-brown upper surface flecked with whitish spots.

Distribution
Arctic ground squirrels are locally very common throughout much of Alaska and north-arctic ground squirrelwestern Canada.

Habitat
Arctic ground squirrels inhabit open tundra and spend much of their time in an underground network of burrows and chambers.

Diet
Primarily herbivores, Arctic ground squirrels feed on a variety of plants, seeds and berries, but they will also eat insects and scavenge on dead birds and other small animals.

Behaviour
Arctic ground squirrels hibernate for up to seven months of the year. During this period they spend considerable time in what is called a �super-cooled� state in which their body temperature drops below freezing. This unique strategy helps them to survive the long cold winter, underground.

Reproduction
Mating takes place during May and the young are born after 25 days. The average litter size is 6-8.

Conservation status
Not currently listed as threatened or endangered in any way.

Voice
They make a variety of sounds including alarm calls when a potential predator is nearby. One of these calls gives the animal its Inuit name �Sik-sik�.

Closest relative
The Arctic ground squirrel is one of many species of the same genus in North America.

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