Kamchatka Eurasian Gopher, Arctic Squirrel, Beringian Ground Squirrel, American Long-tailed Ground Squirrel, Arctic Ground Squirrel — all these are the names of the evrazhka, or evrashka, a cute creature that lives on the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Russian Far East, as well as in Alaska and Canada. This is one of the largest gopher species, which is not at all afraid of people and lives not only in the wild, but also in small villages.
Origin of the species and description
Arctic ground squirrel (lat. Citellus parryi) — a rodent of the squirrel family, belonging to the genus gophers, found in the steppe, meadow and tundra areas of the Northern Hemisphere, close to the Arctic Circle. As one of the largest members of their genus, gully individuals grow in size as — the further north the habitat, the larger the ground squirrels will be found.
Apparently, they were called ravines or evrazhkas for their love of hiding in lowlands and ravines, as well as digging holes there. However, the inhabitants of the Kamchatka Peninsula themselves, who call them so, do not give exact data on the origin of such a name for these animals & # 8212; they are lost for centuries. These are rather large fluffy animals with a curious muzzle, which is typical for all varieties of ground squirrels that love to explore the surroundings, stretching out to their full height above the tall grass.
They are extremely friendly towards humans and willingly eat from hands. This is one common way to determine the approximate age of an animal — older adults stuff their cheeks and run off to stock up, while the young eat everything in place.
Appearance and features
The Arctic squirrel or eurage, reaches a length of 25-32 centimeters, if we are talking about the Chukchi population, and the Alaskan individuals are even larger & # 8212; they can reach 30-40 centimeters. The tail of these animals is a little more than a third of the length of the body — up to 14 centimeters in the largest individuals. The body weight of these animals reaches an average of 800 grams.
The coat of this animal on the stomach and paws is red, ocher in color. The back and tail of the evrazhki are darker, reddish-brown in color, covered with large spots, lighter than the main shade. The head is covered with even darker fur, close to brown in color. The tail also has dark spots, expressed by a black annular rim. In young euragees, the fur has a more uniform, less distinct and less bright color, without pronounced spots and blackouts.
Like other representatives of the species, the Beringian ground squirrel changes its skin for the summer and winter seasons. The winter color of the evrazhka is much lighter than the summer color, and has gray shades. Like all representatives of the gopher genus, the American ground squirrel is a very cautious animal, and therefore has extremely sharp eyesight and hearing. They see the approaching danger from a great distance, including birds of prey, and react instantly to movement, hiding in a hole.
However, in most cases, evrazhki quickly react precisely to sharp movements — they may not even notice a slowly creeping or even approaching creature.
One of the distinguishing features of the structure of evrazhek and other ground squirrels is a peculiar, unlike other squirrels, the structure of the cheeks and cheekbones. It allows these animals to emit whistles of various lengths in various sound ranges — from 2 to 10 kilohertz. Also in euragees, the ways of adapting to low temperatures and the way of deposition of fat are peculiar, allowing them to survive even the most severe cold during hibernation. The surface temperature of the body of these creatures decreases along with the ambient temperature, including dropping below zero.
Where does the evrazhka live?
Based on the name, the Arctic ground squirrel lives in areas close to the Arctic Circle right up to the permafrost itself, which prevents these animals from digging holes. The habitat extends to the steppe, meadow and tundra territories of Eurasia and North America, located at an altitude of no more than one and a half kilometers above sea level.
On the territory of Russia, habitats are:
- Yana River
- Aion Island
- Indigirka River
- Kolyma Highlands.
- Verkhoyansk Highlands.
- Chukotka Peninsula.
- Kamchatka Peninsula.
- The right bank of the Kolyma River up to the outlet to the oceans.
In North America, the Beringian ground squirrel lives in the northern territories of Alaska, British Columbia and Canada. At the end of the 20th century, the population of these animals began to spread due to the appearance of additional food sources — evrazhki began to move closer to highways and settlements located close to their habitats. At the moment, they are found even in large cities.
The American ground squirrel, like all its relatives, is a mink animal. These burrows are usually located at a depth of 30 to 300 centimeters, and are up to 15 meters long. The depth and length of the holes decreases depending on the softness of the ground and as the habitat approaches the permafrost, while the size of the creatures, on the contrary, increases.
This species is also distinguished from all relatives by the special arrangement of holes. Of all the ground squirrels, only the evrazhki do not dig vertical exits for nesting chambers — a horizontal one is enough for them, in which it is easier to hide in case of danger.
What does the Eurasian Eurocat eat?
Eurazhki — omnivorous creatures, but the main diet of their diet depends directly on the habitat. The usual diet of meadow and steppe Beringian ground squirrels living in warmer latitudes consists of plants, including mosses and lichens, while as they approach the permafrost, animal food predominates & # 8212; insects, caterpillars and even carrion.
Changes in the diet also apply to the season — in the active, summer season, evrazhki feed on green vegetation on the surface and insects, but closer to the winter season, before falling into hibernation, they switch to roots and berries located close to the ground. At such times, they most often eat lingonberries and blueberries, as well as mushrooms and green bushes.
Also, arctic gophers are very practical and, like their relatives, make stocks. This occurs in the second half of the summer period, and dry vegetation, as well as the fruits of shrubs, go into storerooms.
Among other things, these creatures often seek food near human dwellings if they live nearby. In such cases, euragees eat leftovers found in garbage dumps, and bakery products and cereals are used as stored food. Gophers living close to humans have also experienced cases of cannibalism (eating their own kind).
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
In their natural habitat, evrazhki are extremely cautious, but very active, moreover, social creatures. They are extremely friendly, but at the same time extremely shy, and the slightest loud sound or sudden movement can make the animal almost literally disappear. At the same time, together with a quick retreat into the hole, the animal emits a sharp whistle, notifying relatives. Whistling with each other and immediately hiding, they are able to drive the predator to a state of indifference to the constantly elusive prey.
Nevertheless, their caution does not negate the fact that they are practically indifferent to quiet sounds and slow movement, which is used by many predators who share their habitat with them, and people who catch these animals, which are pests near crop areas and vegetable gardens.
The period of activity in American ground squirrels begins after about 5 am and ends at about 7-8 pm, subsiding around noon. The peak of seasonal activity occurs in the middle of summer, when juveniles settle.
The main feature of the way of life of evrazhek, as well as other types of ground squirrels, is the hibernation period, which lasts about 7-8 months. It starts in August-September and ends in April-May. However, there have been cases of activity of evrazhek at a temperature of -40 degrees. As a rule, falling into sleep occurs along with snowfall and the onset of low or negative temperatures. At this time, the temperature in the nesting chamber of the burrow can also drop to negative values: down to -5 degrees. The body temperature of the animals themselves during such periods adapts to changes in the external environment, dropping even to -10 degrees.
The winter sleep ends even before the snow melts, and it is for the time after leaving hibernation that these animals make supplies. While they hibernate almost simultaneously, the older males are the first to come to the surface in the colony, followed by — females, and then already young individuals who have reached the age of a year. The time difference is about a week, but sometimes up to two.
In captivity, evrazhkas, as well as other representatives of their species, behave more actively and boldly, not running away at the sight of rapidly moving objects and whistling indicating not a fright, as in the natural environment, but a change of scenery. In addition, in captivity, ground squirrels are kept exclusively in large spacious enclosures, in which it is possible to dig holes. It is extremely difficult to keep them as pets, and besides, the animal itself will not be happy with closed space at all.
Social structure and reproduction
Evrazki are extremely social and live in large groups — colonies up to 50 individuals. The territory of the colony can reach 6-7 hectares, and the oldest male dominates this territory, while individuals live in isolated pairs or, less often, singles. Aggressive interactions rarely occur between group members — mostly gophers are friendly towards each other and are limited to games. Such games, as a rule, contribute to the further dispersal of the population over the territory, which occurs in mature individuals.
The main way of communication in their colony among evrazhek is whistles of various lengths and tonality — from clicks to high whistles. For example, a short, sharp whistle is a signal of danger in gophers, while a less sharp and longer whistle is emitted by a male who has defeated another male in a game or a dispute for a female. immediately after the awakening of females from hibernation, and lasts about 10 days. In inhabitants of more northern territories, it passes even in holes, even before reaching the surface. The litter occurs approximately at the end of May and includes from 5 to 10 cubs (the maximum established by observations is — 14), capable of coming to the surface by mid-late June.
At the same time, approximately in mid-July, one-year-olds begin to disperse. One-year-old individuals are considered sexually mature in evrazhek, and the peak of fertility occurs at two and three-year-olds. Then comes the period of food storage and preparation for hibernation.
Europe natural enemies
Arctic ground squirrels are natural enemies all predators that have a similar habitat. The list of such begins with birds of various species, including representatives of nocturnal birds of prey, and ends with various terrestrial predators, including large ones.
The main enemies of euragees are:
Among the most unusual enemies of these gophers, gulls can be distinguished, which, oddly enough, sometimes feed on them, and bears. Bears for them are perhaps the most dangerous of all — unlike other natural threats, even deep holes do not save them. A bear is able to simply dig deep into the ground in search of a evrazhka and get a small animal.
Population and species status
The population of evrazhek at the moment is quite large and is only increasing — in the warmest biotopes inhabited by these animals, the number of holes reaches 600-700 per hectare, while 140 to 200 of them are inhabited on average. And this is at least 250 individuals within one territory.
In less favorable conditions, the number of arctic ground squirrel burrows per hectare averages 12-15, and all of them are inhabited. Near human dwellings the situation is slightly different — the population is from 30 to 50 animals with a huge number of holes. In general, there is no more accurate information about these animals, since counting the livestock is very, very difficult and one has to rely on minimal statistics revealed by visual observation and marking.
American or Beringian ground squirrels are not on any of the conservation lists and are not rare. On the contrary, the population of the species grows and expands its habitat, safely settling near roads and human dwellings. In addition, arctic ground squirrels are an integral and extremely important part of the ecosystems in their habitats, taking an active part in the distribution of plant seeds and soil renewal in the process of burrowing. Thanks to the evrazhki populating agrocenoses (cultivated land), the growth of grain and cereal crops improves.
Since the completion of human development of the territories inhabited by evrazhki, and the end of the period of hunting for furs, people deliberately destroy these animals rarely. Nevertheless, the local residents of these territories still have the practice of harvesting skins for making warm clothes. Sometimes, much less often, they are shot for spoiling food, especially for devastating stocks of cereals.
Eurazhka, or Bering ground squirrel — a very harmless and funny creature, extremely social and very shy in the natural environment, approaching a person out of pure curiosity and running away at the slightest sign of danger. The curiosity of these furry animals, as a rule, leads to the desire to feed them, which ends with a complete loss of fear of the source of food and an organized appearance of the entire cunning neighboring population of evrazhek within reach of food.