Speckled gopher: description of the animal

Speckled gopher: description of the animal
Speckled gopher: description of the animal

The speckled gopher lives mainly in the steppes. This is a fussy creature, vigilantly guarding its own hole. Everyone who has ever been to the steppes has repeatedly seen the silhouettes of these animals, standing in columns, with their front paws folded on their chest, and looking around the surroundings. One moment - and the gopher was gone!

speckled ground squirrel

Interestingly, folk legends attributed special properties to them. The nomads believed that these animals knew where the golden treasures were buried in the steppes, and that if you go to bed in an open field, the gophers can approach the vacationer and reveal all their secrets in his ear.


The speckled ground squirrel is common in the southern forest-steppes and steppes of the East European Plain. There are also 2 small isolated habitats: in the west of Belarus and north-west of Ukraine.

Spotted gopher: appearance description

This is one of the shortest and smallest ground squirrels. Its weight reaches 500 g, while males are slightly larger than females. The head is large, with huge eyes. The paws of the animal are short, with movable long fingers. Gopherspeckled has a rather rare and short, adjacent hairline; only on his tail the hair is fluffy and long. The coloration of the back is variegated and bright: large, clearly defined, yellowish or whitish speckles are scattered on a brown or gray-brown main background, merging into ripples at the back of the head.

gopher description

It is interesting that in young animals the specks can be arranged in rows. The upper part of the head is the same color as the back, sometimes slightly darker. The eyes are surrounded by a light ring; under them are brown spots. The head and neck are white below. The belly changes color from ocher yellow to light gray. The tail is two-tone, has a light border. The general color tone within the range fades and brightens towards the south.

The karyotype of the speckled ground squirrel has 34 chromosomes.


In these animals, the breeding season begins a week and a half after leaving hibernation. In this case, the rut lasts about two weeks. It is accompanied by the arrival of males in the territory of females. Males at this time are very aggressive - they chase each other, "box", bite. Mating always takes place in the burrow. In this case, the pregnancy lasts about 27 days. After that, about seven cubs are born.

spotted ground squirrel photo

At the very beginning of June, a young animal (gopher) comes out of its hole for the first time. Then the female leaves her offspring for 3 days, thereby forcing him to start eating solid food. A few days later, the young already leave their mother, settling in their holes.

The speckled ground squirrel gives infertile hybrids in the middle Volga region with the small ground squirrel. And on average, Transnistria with a European gopher.


But the spotted ground squirrel is not only interesting for this. What does this animal eat? The composition of his feed is vegetable. It has about 50 items, the main part is cereals (feather grass, fescue, bluegrass, wild oats), as well as flowering herbs (yarrow, clover, dandelion). The change of diet depending on the season is well expressed. In early spring, the animal eats plant roots, green parts in summer, and seeds in autumn.

speckled ground squirrel what does it eat

Cultural cereals (wheat, rye, sometimes barley) eats whole (stems, seedlings, grain, leaves), while not going further than 50 meters from the extreme part of the field. During the period of active flight of beetles, it also feeds on them. He makes small stocks - 500 g each, and then - in case of bad weather in the summer (in winter, animals do not eat). During periods of young and rutting in dense settlements, there are also cases of necrophagy and cannibalism (eating of relatives caught in a trap).


The ground squirrel is an inhabitant of the feather grass steppes, the southern part of the forest-steppe and upland meadows. We consider a description of his lifestyle in this article. Its original habitats are elevated areas of the steppe used for pastures, pastures and mowing. But due to the extensive plowing of the steppes, the ground squirrel was forced out onto the slopes of dry beams, the outskirts of forest belts, and borders.

During the years of its high population, it temporarily settles along country roads, in vineyards andold gardens, along the edges of fields with crops of wheat and corn. The lowlands are rarely used and only as forage sites.

animal gopher

The spotted ground squirrel, the photo of which is presented in this article, lives in colonies (dense and sparse) along roadsides, floodplains, etc. There are also solitary animals. At the same time, each adult individual occupies its own hole. There are temporary and permanent holes. Gophers hibernate there, breed and fly.

Sometimes burrows have additional passages and burrows. Temporary dwellings are smaller and simpler. Animals lead a sedentary life, while they do not migrate in search of food. Only males are mobile during the rut, as well as young animals during the resettlement period.


The total number of spotted ground squirrels has declined over the past decades due to chemical eradication and virgin lands plowing.

speckled ground squirrel

Relationship with a person

In the main part of the range (apart from Moldova and Ukraine), due to the small number of ground squirrels, it does not cause significant harm to agriculture. Periodically harms grain, horticultural and horticultural crops, forest plantations, pastures.

Contributes to the complete destruction of the soil layer. Currently, it has no commercial value. The natural carrier of some helminthic invasions, the causative agent of tularemia. This animal is of no value to humans, therefore, it is not hunted.

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