Identifying ground squirrels requires much more than looking out the window and observing a squirrel on the ground. After all, tree squirrels spend much time on the ground, and ground squirrels spend much time in trees. To differentiate, there are key characteristics to look for in ground squirrels, including appearance, habitat, and even the damage they create.

Facts, Identification & Removal

Latin Name

Spermophilus tridecemilineatus


What do they look like?

Ground squirrels are much larger than other squirrels. Their weight ranges from 3 to 15 or more pounds. They have fur that resembles the colors of the earth to help them blend in and hide. Their tails are thinner and less bushy than most other squirrels.

Ground squirrels have shorter, less bushy tails and live underground. In fact, they’re sometimes called gophers (especially in the Midwest).

These are nervous, excitable pests who prefer to stay close to home. They are, typically, found near burrows. Logically, the thirteen-lined ground squirrel is an excellent digger. This is one reason it spends time underground.

How Did I Get 13-Lined Ground Squirrels?

The 13-lined ground squirrel seeks out lawns, recreational areas, golf courses and other preferred habitat with plentiful food sources and room to burrow. They prefer open, grassy areas, but often dig under sheds, garages, and porches. Although it is rare, a 13-lined ground squirrel may find its way into a garage or basement through holes in the foundation or under poorly fitting garage door seals.

How Serious Are 13-Lined Ground Squirrels?

These squirrels prey upon many species of ornamental and agricultural pests, but the 13-lined ground squirrel burrows can be a tripping hazard in public areas, and the pests’ digging causes damage in yards. Because they eat plants and seeds, these animals can also destroy gardens. In addition, the 13-lined ground squirrel carries fleas and ticks that can cause populations of these Arthropods to occur in their habitats.

How Do You Get Rid of Them?

Signs of a Ground Squirrel Infestation

Ground squirrels are most known for their damage to plants. Their feeding damage as well as soil disturbed by their digging are the most likely signs, besides seeing the squirrels themselves.

Ground Squirrel Removal Services
If thirteen-lined ground squirrels have invaded an area of land near to you, they can be controlled where permitted. Some states have restrictions on control methods permitted, and control activities may require a permit. The squirrel may be protected to varying degrees by some states.

As always, it’s recommended to consult a wildlife control professional near you prior to attempting to control any pest population.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

What state are they located in?

In America, there are numerous species of ground squirrels, including various species of marmots and chipmunks. The Washington ground squirrel is found in Washington and Oregon, while Rock squirrels are in the southwest United States. Other examples include the following:

  • Townsend’s ground squirrels live in high desert areas.
  • Round-tailed ground squirrels live in Southwest desert areas.
  • Spotted ground squirrels live in the central and southwest parts of America.
  • Thirteen-lined ground squirrels live in prairies in the central region of the U.S.
  • Richardson’s ground squirrels are in North Dakota, Montana, and other northern regions.
  • Paiute ground squirrels live in Utah, Nevada, and the Pacific Northwest.
  • Mexican ground squirrels live in New Mexico and Texas.
  • Mohave ground squirrels thrive in the Mohave desert.

Where do they live?
The thirteen-lined ground squirrel is a common pest in and around building foundations, golf courses, gardens and lawns. Preferred habitats of the thirteen-lined ground squirrel are open fields and brushy areas.

When are they active?
Their primary seasons for activity are early spring until mid fall. When inactive, the ground squirrel is hibernating underground. Upon emerging in the spring, the first order of duty is to mate. It takes about a month before females give birth.

What do they eat?
Their diet consists mostly of seeds, fruits, roots, green vegetation and insects. This presents problems in cultivated areas where there are newly planted seeds and other vegetation for ready consumption.


Females give birth to an average of 10 offspring. They produce one litter per year. The young become sexually mature after nine to 10 months.

More Information

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemilineatus) is a member of order Rodentia and family Sciuridae. Although the mention of a squirrel may conjure thoughts of a gray rodent with bushy tail performing acrobatics in a tree, the ground squirrel is quite different. This family member is more a distant cousin of the daredevil we are most familiar with.