November 15, 2011

Wildlife Wonders of Alaska - Arctic Ground Squirrels

Arctic ground squirrels are the largest and most northern of the North American ground squirrels. They are established residents of Denali National Park, and this particular fellow entertained us when we traveled along the park road.

These squirrels burrow and establish colonies in areas with well-drained soils, creating a maze of tunnels beneath the surface. They are one of the most important summer food sources for golden eagles, gyrfalcons, foxes, and grizzly bears. Remember the photo I showed last month of the large area that was dug up by a grizzly bear? The bear was undoubtedly in search of a ground squirrel snack! 

Arctic ground squirrels certainly enjoy their summer hiatus after a long winter hibernation of 7 to 8 months. During hibernation, their body temperature drops below freezing, a condition referred to as supercooling. Every two to three weeks, while still sleeping, the squirrels shiver and shake for 12 to 15 hours to create enough heat to warm them back to a normal body temperature of about 98 degrees Fahrenheit. When the shivering and shaking stops, their body temperature drops back to the minimal temperature. Weird, huh?

During the summer, they eat many types of vegetation including the leaves, seeds, fruits, stems, mushrooms, flowers, and roots of many species of grasses, forbs, and woody plants. The squirrels also eat meat from freshly killed animals. As foragers, their goal is to build up fat stores and almost double their body weight by the time they enter hibernation again in fall. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just use winter hibernation as our excuse for consuming a second piece of pie after our Thanksgiving feast?!


  1. They are so cute! I love the variations that we see in other parts of the country. He is such a pretty color! ♥

  2. You mean you don't use that as an excuse? I'm pretty sure that I do. This creature looks nothing like a squirrel to me. He looks like a gopher. Now I have done me some shivering, but 15 hours of it doesn't seem healthful.

  3. Those squirrels look like a groundhog, don't they???? I wish OUR squirrels here would hibernate...ha ha

  4. They are so cute! What a great picture. I was all like "Oh" and "Awww" and then I got to the part about them being eaten by just about everything walking and it went downhill from there. LOL!
    I love coming here and getting a little edjamacated. Hee!Hee!
    Have a great day.

  5. EXCUSE? Who needs an EXCUSE?

    Bahahahah ....

    Seriously D, that little guy does NOT want to be a snack! He just wants a snack! I hope he finds one.

    Supercooling ... wish I could figure out a way to do that when it's 295 degrees in the shade with 8,500 percent humidity in Columbia!!!!

    Oh yeah. My pool. It's all good.

  6. Awwwww!! I'm SO glad this one hasn't become a bear snack!!Hahaa
    Love the shot!!

  7. well he is just adorable. I don't see why we can't use hibernation as an excuse for extra pie.

  8. Hi Donna,
    What a cute little guy he is. Yes, I need a big excuse for my pecan and coconut cream pie indulgence. I even eat for breakfast the next morning. I received my wonderful give away gift today. I will be blogging about it on Fri. Love, your wonderful artwork. Can't wait to glitter.

  9. He is a cutie standing there for you to get a photo! He reminds me of a Prairie Dog. Interesting post.

    Kindly, Lorraine

  10. What a good picture you got of that squirrel and a very interesting post too! I didn't even know there were squirrels in the Arctic! I love squirrels and have a cute sweatshirt with advice from the squirrel. You can find out the advice in the post I did. Here's the link if interested:

  11. Reminds me of our groundhogs. Nice photos.


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