Arctic Ground Squirrel

Arctic Ground Squirrel

The Arctic Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus parryii) (sicsic, the Inuit term) is a species of ground squirrel native to the Arctic.


The diurnal Arctic Ground Squirrel lives in colonies and is the only Arctic animal that hibernates. In the spring and summer it forages for tundra plants, seeds and fruit to increase body fat for its winter hibernation. By late summer it begins to store food in its burrow so that in the spring it will have edible food until the new vegetation has grown. The burrows are lined with lichens, leaves and Muskox hair. It is prey to the Arctic Fox, the Grizzly Bear and eagles.

During hibernation, its brain and core temperature can drop to just above freezing and its heartbeat drops. Peripheral, colonic, and blood temperatures become subzero by means of supercooling. Body temperatures drop as low as -2.9°C (average -2°C).

Geographic range

The Arctic Ground Squirrel can be found in regions of Northern Canada ranging from the Arctic Circle down to the southern border of the Northwest Territories, as well as Alaska and Siberia.


The Arctic Ground Squirrel inhabits dry Arctic tundra and open meadows in the most southern habitats of this species.

Physical description

The Arctic Ground Squirrel has a beige and tan coat with a white-spotted back. This squirrel has a short face, small ears, a dark tail and white markings around its eyes. The average length of an Arctic Ground Squirrel is approximately 39cm, and the average mass 750g (26.4 oz), however, males generally are around 100g heavier than females.


Spermophilus parryii live in colonies dominated by one male. Mating occurs in mid May after winter hibernation. Gestation is approximately 25 days, and results in a litter of 5 to 10, 10g hairless pups. After 6 weeks the pups are weaned and this is followed by rapid growth to prepare for the upcoming winter.


The Arctic Ground Squirrel hibernates over winter from early September to late April, at which time it can reduce its body temperatures from 37 degrees Celsius to as little as -3 degrees Celsius. In the warmer months the squirrel is active during the day time.

Communication between squirrels is done through both vocal and physical means.

Food habits

This squirrel feeds on grasses, sedges, mushrooms, bog rushes, bilberries, willows, roots, stalks, leaves, flowers, and seeds, but can adapt to other foods when necessary. Sometimes this squirrel carries food back to its den within its cheeks.


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