Arctic Ground Squirrel
Squeak! Or maybe a chirp? Whatever your preferred onomatopoeia for the sound of the Arctic Ground squirrel (Spermophilus parryii), it is a distinctive and loud sound! Common in most all of Alaska, the Arctic Ground Squirrel, seen here in it’s natural habitat, it is the largest of north America ground squirrel species. It is the only ground squirrel species in Alaska. Ranging from 332-495mm in length and 524-1,500 grams in weight, these members of the sciuridae family (which also includes marmots, chipmunks, prairie dogs and other squirrels) are made to dig! They posses sharp claws and soft pads on the underside of their paws which make handling dirt and food easier. This aids in the burrowing and building of their underground homes and tunnels. They can live between 8-10 years, though due to how territorial males tend to be, they can in fact stress themselves out enough to lower their immune system and cause the shortening their own lifespan. They are the only vertebrate we know of that can survive body temperatures below freezing during hibernation, which can last up to nine months. Since they only have three months of waking time, they have a lot of eating to do before they go back into hibernation. But they always keep a wary eye on their surroundings, hence you see them sitting on their back legs looking about for predators and any danger that could be lurking nearby. So we enjoy hearing their calls and chatters as we walk through Denali National Park, and seeing their white speckled backs move quickly through the underbrush. A fun site to see as you explore the great expanse known as Alaska.