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Basic Facts About Mohave Ground Squirrels

The Mohave ground squirrel (Spermophilus mohavensis) is one of the more elusive animals of the California desert. Their highly developed desert survival skills allow them to avoid the extremes of the hostile climate. They are very hard to find and even more difficult to observe and study. Mohave ground squirrels are small brown squirrels with white bellies and thin tails.


Mohave ground squirrels eat a variety of foods, but feed primarily on the leaves and seeds of forbs and shrubs.


Did You Know?

Mohave ground squirrels emit a high-pitched "peep" as an alarm call, when startled or when young first begin to emerge from their burrows.

Determining population size of the Mohave ground squirrel is difficult due to its elusive nature. The species is inactive throughout much of the year, and abundance as well as the period of surface activity varies from year to year.


The Mohave ground squirrel occupies portions of Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in the Western Mojave Desert. The species ranges from near Palmdale on the southwest to Lucerne Valley on the southeast, Olancha on the northwest and the Avawatz Mountains on the northeast. 


The Mohave ground squirrel occupies all major desert scrub habitats in the Western Mojave Desert. The mainly solitary Mohave ground s quirrel hibernates from August to March, when food is scarce. It carries its tail over its back when running; the white underside helps reflect the sun's rays.

Did You Know?

Natural predators to Mohave ground squirrels include badgers, coyotes, snakes, falcons and hawks.

It seems that that the Mohave ground squirrel controls its population and food sources by refusing to mate when there is significantly low rainfall. They will often hibernate early, sometimes as early as April, and wait until the next year to try again. This leads to near extinction in the areas with little or no rain, but the population seems to increase steadily after the rains return. Breeding occurs soon after they emerge from hibernation.


Mating Season: Spring.
Gestation: Less than a month.
Litter size 6-9 young.

The young are usually weaned after only about a month and will leave the nest. Often, the young ground squirrels will settle close to their mother’s burrow, but sometimes a young male will travel far, often up to four miles, to establish his own territory.

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