What do sousliks do in winter?
What do ground squirrels do in winter? They‘re asleep - and some have been for quite a long time! Non-reproducing individuals can start to hibernate at the end of July, followed by the reproducing individuals and finally, in September or even October in some caes, the young from the year will make their way underground.
Hibernation, is a state of inactivity with a significant drop body-temperature, a decrease in breathing and heart-rate, and low metabolic rate. Sousliks go into this state due to the decrease in availibity of food during the cold winter months. During this time, it is very rare that they will wake up and move around as it cost a lot of precious energy to do this. They rely completely on the fat stores they accrued during the summer months to see them through the winter. Pre-hibernation males can weigh up to 500g while females around 320g. During hibernation, however, this could drop by a quarter or a third.
And where do ground squirrels sleep? In its permanent burrow that extends to a depth of 80 cm below the ground. Permanent burrow is a system of corridors with so-called nesting chamber, which is lined with grass. During winter hibernation, the ground squirrel closes in the chamber.
And where are they? Sousliks dig permanent burrows which can be up to 80 cm deep. These burrows will link to a ‚nesting chamber‘ which is usually lined with grass where they will spend the winter months. They close up this chamber when it comes to hibernation.
_A souslik at the enterance to its burrow. In its mouth you can see his collection of grass for its nest. _
Their holes are not only for winter. They are also used as a safe place to carefully emerge from and somewhere they can easily run to to hide.
The project was support by a grant from the Ministry of the Environment. The material does not have to express the opinion of the Ministry of the Environment. It also takes place in cooperation with Beleco z.s.