Ground Squirrel Fun Facts

Xerini is a tribe (one classification above genus) of ground squirrels in Asia and Africa. Six (living) species belong to the tribe Xerini. Let’s learn some fun facts about all of them today!

Barbary ground squirrel

Barbary Ground Squirrel
Barbary Ground Squirrel

Measuring between six and eight inches (not including tail), with short wiry reddish-brown and brown fur and white stripes on their sides, the Barbary ground squirrel is native to Morocco and Algeria. They have also been introduced to the Canary Islands. They live in communal burrows in rocky and mountainous regions at altitudes of up to 13,000 feet. They have been known to migrate if food becomes scarce.



Cape ground squirrel

Also known as the fan-tailed squirrel, these squirrels have reddish-brown fur on their backs and white fur on their face, belly, and sides, with a distinctive white stripe running from their shoulders to hind legs. They live in arid regions of Southern Africa away from the coast in large systems of burrows. They share their burrows with meerkats and the two species seem to have a mutually beneficial relationship.


Long-clawed ground squirrel

Native to deserts and grasslands of Central Asia, the long-clawed ground squirrel is the only member of the Xerini to not live in Africa. They have yellow and grey fur on their backs and white fur on their bellies, with no stripes. Compared to other ground squirrel, long-clawed ground squirrels live in small colonies.

Mountain ground squirrel

Mountain Ground Squirrel
Mountain Ground Squirrel

A relatively large squirrel, the mountain ground squirrel measures about eight inches to a foot long, excluding their tail, and their tail is nearly as long. They have reddish-brown fur and a thing white stripe on either side. Unlike other ground squirrels, and especially their closest relatives the cape ground squirrels, mountain ground squirrels don’t live in large colonies and don’t exhibit many social behaviors. Males are usually solitary and females may live in small groups. They live in a small arid region of Southern Africa.



Striped ground squirrel

Striped Ground Squirrel
Striped Ground Squirrel

About the same size as mountain ground squirrels, striped ground squirrels have sandy brown fur and a thin white stripe on their sides. They live in a wide range of habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, from forests to coasts to scrub lands. Rather than living in large burrow systems with large colonies, striped ground squirrels live in small burrows alone or with a partner. They cache their food away from the burrow.




Unstriped ground squirrel

As their name suggests, unstriped ground squirrels have light brown fur unmarked by the white stripe common to Xerini. They are small squirrels, measuring about nine inches excluding their tails, which measure six inches on average. They live in arid regions of savanna and shrub land in small burrow systems. Frequently, unstriped ground squirrels will find shelter in another squirrel’s burrow, and squirrels who find themselves with a guest don’t mind. In fact, unstriped ground squirrels have been observed to tolerate even other species of squirrels residing in their burrows.

If you liked this blog post and want to read more about squirrel, check out this blog post about Siberian flying squirrels!


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