NatureMapping Animal Facts

California Ground Squirrel

California Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi)
Species Code: SPBEE distribution map

Origin of the Name

The California Ground Squirrel was named after Frederick William Beechey, who explored much of Northern California in 1826-28 as captain of His Majesty's Ship Blossom, this squirrel is also sometimes called the Beechey Ground Squirrel.

California Ground Squirrel photo by Tim Knight Description:

The adults have a mix of gray, light brown and dusky fur to give the California Ground Squirrel's upperparts a mottled appearance. A band of slightly darker fur, flecked with light gray, extends from the head over the middle of the back. Gray fur forms a cape over the sides of the head and shoulders. This gray cape may have a protective function, breaking up the animal's body outline and making it more difficult for a predator to spot (see photo). The undersides are light buff or grayish yellow.

California Ground Squirrels are found from central Washington through western Oregon, California and into the northern part of Baja California. The squirrel is found in plains, small meadows, tree-covered hillsides, rocky outcrops and granite taluses. The northern extent of its range was once bounded by the Columbia River, but the California Ground Squirrel has crossed the river into south-central Washington.

Click the range map to learn more about the distribution of California Ground Squirrels in Washington or California.

Diet: distribution map

Their diet is is primarily seed-based, including barley, oats, and acorns. They eat eggs, insects, roots, tubers, seeds, grains, nuts and fruit. Ground squirrels are known to eat grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and caterpillars.


California ground squirrels utilize cheek pouches while they are foraging to collect more food than would otherwise be possible in one sitting. Like gray squirrels, they cache or store food for future use.

California ground squirrels use a variety of sounds, tail signals and scent production as means of communication. The belt out a high-pitched alarm call when they feel threatened. The calling can last for several minutes.

California ground squirrels reside on the ground and in burrow systems. The burrows can house many generations forming a small colony, and each individual has an entrance of their own.

Males are often territorial. The ground squirrels tend to stay within 150 yards of their burrow system and usually retreat to their entrance for safety.

Did you know?

  • California Ground Squirrels can live up to 6 years in the wild.
  • They give a high pitched alarm call to warn others of predators.
  • They create habitat for other animals, such as rodents and snakes, which occupy empty burrows.
  • California Ground Squirrels are preyed upon by red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, coyote, fox, badgers, weasels, house cats, dogs, and snakes.
California Ground Squirrel photo by Tim Knight

California Ground Squirrel

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Photos: Natures Pics

More information: California Ground Squirrel - Animal Diversity Web

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