04.21.08–Athabascan Word of the Week–Arctic Ground Squirrel

arctic_ground_squirrel_tracks_b&w

Ground Squirrel = Konsa = Upper Kuskokwim Dialect

Red Squirrel = dilja = Upper Kuskokwim Dialect

Flying Squirrel = Ch`its`idoluhja = Upper Kuskokwim Dialect

Arctic Ground Squirrel–Parka Squirrel: Spermophilus parryii

Order: Rodentia (Gnawing mammals).

Family: Sciridae (squirrels).

Range and Habitat: throughout most of Alaska except permafrost areas; in most open brush areas and meadows, dry and sandy soils in or adjoining areas of green vegetation, including farmland.

Size and Weight: 15 inches; ¾ to 1½ pounds.

Diet: omnivorous, including green vegetation, some grains, seeds, fruits, birds, bird eggs, insects, and carrion, as well as its own species.

Sound: brief and abrupt high-pitched chirps and whistles.

The arctic ground squirrel is the largest North American ground squirrel and the only one living in Alaska. It is a colonial animal, denning in burrows or occasionally beneath rocks, logs, and stumps, where it stores food. They have several den entrances, each about 3 inches in diameter. Arctic ground squirrels are generally gray or buff to reddish, with various subtle coat patterns.

The truncated inner toe on the front often leaves a slight imprint on soft surfaces. Eight to sixteen inches separate groups of four prints made by running animals; they usually walk only at den entrances where you may find the spacing between individual prints totally random. Ground squirrels seem to be more flat–footed than tree squirrels, and ground squirrel tracks never go far from, and always lead back to their burrows. Also, ground squirrel claws are fairly straight and usually don’t leave marks, whereas tree squirrels have curved claws, adapted to vertical climbing and clinging to bark, which tend to leave tiny marks. Finally, tree squirrels are active all winter; while ground squirrel tracks may be encountered in early fall or late spring snow, they will be absent for the winter.

Cited From: Animal Tracks of Alaska, written by Chris Stall, published by The Mountaineers, 1993.

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One response to “04.21.08–Athabascan Word of the Week–Arctic Ground Squirrel

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