|Sciuridae: Squirrel Pictures
WV Northern Flying Squirrel
Types of Rodents
Types of Animals
Squirrels, a large family of mammals (Sciuridae) inhabit most corners of the world, with the exception of Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar.
North American squirrels also blend easily into every type of landscape, from residential areas to forests, fields and deserts.
Discussions regarding the types of squirrels found in the United States often point to three general categories, with each category consisting of a handful of genera:
- Ground Squirrels
- Tree Squirrels
- Flying Squirrels.
Ground Squirrels, including, chipmunks, marmots and prairie dogs, account for the vast majority of native squirrel species (56 of 66 documented species). Their practice of nesting in ground burrows explains their category name.
Most ground squirrels species spend their days foraging for food along the ground, however, some species are known to climb trees.
While squirrels often get associated with a diet of nuts, all squirrels, including ground squirrels, eat a variety of foodstuffs including fruit, nuts, insects and mushrooms.
The California Ground Squirrel, pictured above, inhabits fields and forests of the West Coast through northern Oregon, and perhaps southern Washington state.
Mosts days are spent foraging for food and sunning on rocks and tree stumps. The picture highlights their mixture of gray and brown fur.
Picture two shows the Belding's Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus beldingi), an average sized Western ground squirrel.
Their body fur tends to be a more uniform brown color than the mottled fur of the California Ground Squirrel. The top of the fur shows a hint of rust color and the tail is long, but not as bushy as a typical squirrel's bushy tail.
Like other ground squirrels, they live in colonies. When confronted with potential danger, colony members send out verbal warnings to each other.
Six different marmot species (genus Marmota) call North America home, including the now commercially popular Groundhog or Woodchuck (Marmota monax).
Mention of the Groundhog makes it easy to remember that, as a group, marmots hibernate during winter months, becoming active in the early spring.
Like their close relatives, the ground squirrels, Marmots are social animals that inhabit ground nests. Unlike most ground squirrel species, almost all Marmot species are associated with high altitude, often rocky habitat.
They are a talkative group, often using whistles to communicate messages to other group members.
Golden-mantled ground squirrels (Spermophilus lateralis), small ground squirrels found in forested areas throughout the Western United States, can easily be confused with chipmunks.
Picture three compares the Golden-mantled ground squirrel (in the front) with a striped faced chipmunk in the background. Chipmunks also show stripes on their bodies.
Both Chipmunks and Golden-mantled ground squirrels have cheek pouches, used for gathering and transporting food.
A final mention of ground squirrels leads to picture four, the Harris' Antelope Squirrel (Ammospermophilus harrisii).
Native to the desert Southwest, the white stripe on the side of the body represents one common field identification mark.
Like the Golden-mantled Squirrel, at first glance, it can easily be mistaken for a chipmunk.
Harris' Antelope Squirrels are omnivores, whose diet consists of seeds, nuts, fruit and insects in their territory.
The links in the box point to additional squirrel information.
© 2007-2012 Patricia A. Michaels