Ground squirrels are pests that eat crops and can significantly damage plants, trees and vegetables.

ground squirrel
They may chew on plastic sprinkler heads and irrigation lines. Though they don't typically enter homes, ground squirrels are notorious for burrowing. They may burrow under patios, stairs and foundations, potentially causing expensive structural damage.

Ground squirrels also pose a health threat to humans, particularly when many squirrels are present. Fleas carried by ground squirrels can transmit bubonic plague. Knowing how to get rid of ground squirrels is important to protect your garden, home and health.

What is a ground squirrel?

A ground squirrel is a small rodent that digs underground burrows. There are 26 species of ground squirrels in North America. Some of these are marmots, chipmunks, and prairie dogs. The ground squirrel’s body is 9 to 11 inches long, with a bushy tail that’s 5 to 9 inches long. Their fur is brownish-gray with off-white speckles along their backs. Ground squirrels have internal cheek pouches to carry seeds, fruits and other food to storage chambers in their burrows. 

Where do ground squirrels live?

Ground squirrels prefer open grasslands and are usually found in grain fields, irrigated pastures, meadows and around residential and commercial buildings. Ground squirrels live in underground burrows where they sleep, rest, store food and raise their young. The burrow openings are about 4 inches in diameter. Burrows are usually 6 feet deep and 15 to 20 feet long with many entrances. Ground squirrels live in colonies that may include many rodents living in multiple burrows.

Ground squirrels forage for food above ground near their burrows. They can also climb trees, but they will retreat to their burrows when frightened.

When are ground squirrels most active?

Ground squirrels are most active during the day, usually from mid-morning to late afternoon, particularly on warm, sunny days.  

Do ground squirrels hibernate?

Many ground squirrels do hibernate in the winter months, while others are active year-round. Ground squirrels belonging to the genus Spermophilus (including North American ground squirrels) hibernate. The body temperature of the thirteen-lined ground squirrel (S. Tridecemlineatis) of central North America drops from 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to 1 to 3 degrees above burrow temperature. During hibernation, this ground squirrel’s heart rate drops from 200 to 350 beats per minute in an active squirrel to only five beats per minute. Respiration rate decreases from 50 breaths per minute to about four.  

Ground Squirrel Removal

Removing ground squirrels can be very difficult. That’s why if you have an issue, you should contact a wildlife control professional.