The European Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) is a rodent mammal in the Sciuridae family of squirrels. It is also known as the European Souslik.
The European Ground Squirrel has a slender body with a short, bushy tail. Its short fur is yellowish-grey, flecked with black hair. Its underside is pale. It has large, dark eyes and small, rounded ears. It has short feet with sharp claws for digging. It has strong, gnawing teeth. It has a small nose with whiskers.
It grows to a length of 20 centimetres (8 inches). Its tail measures about 13 centimetres (5 inches) long.
It is native to central and south-eastern Europe in countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Poland, and Ukraine.
It prefers areas with short grasses and vegetation, such as steppes, pastures, urban parks, and lawns.
It is diurnal, active during the day. It hibernates in winter.
It lives in colonies in burrows or dens underground, which are lined with moss and leaves. The tunnels are up to 2 metres (6.5 feet) deep with several entrances and exits.
It emerges during the day to feed on seeds, nuts, plants, and small invertebrates, such as insects.
In the colony, called a pack, there are several squirrel guards or sentinels who whistle when they see a predator as a warning to come back to the burrow for safety. Its predators include the weasel, fox, domestic cat, and birds of prey.
The female European Ground Squirrel has a pregnancy of about 26 days, before giving birth to 5-8 live young, which are hairless and blind. They open their eyes when they are about 28 days old. They are able to leave the burrow after 6-8 weeks. They become fully grown by five or six months of age.
Location of photographs: Paris Zoo, France
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM