As their name suggests, rock squirrels (Otospermophilus variegatus) prefer rocky habitats, such as cliffs and canyons, in semiarid climates. They can also be found in rock walls, bridges, and old houses in urban areas.
Rock squirrels are common throughout their extensive geographic range in the southwestern United States and Mexico, stretching from Utah, Nevada, and Colorado in the north to Pueblo, Mexico, in the south. They can live in elevations ranging from sea level to 2,900 meters (9,500 feet).
Although they look very similar to tree squirrels, rock squirrels rarely climb trees, and they typically build burrows rather than nests. Their diet consists of plant materials, such as fruit, seeds, and nuts, as well as insects and earthworms. They will also sometimes eat meat.
Rock squirrels live in colonies with a dominant male and several subordinate females. Female rock squirrels give birth once a year, and sometime twice a year in warmer locations. Though they are active all year in most of their range, they may hibernate in upper elevations, where it is colder.
Rock squirrels can be found in urban areas. How might this ability to adapt to new habitats be helpful to the species?
Rock squirrels live in burrows in the ground. What are some other animals that burrow?
Compare a map of the rock squirrel’s range with a map showing deserts in North America. Do these areas overlap? Would a finding such as that be expected? Why or why not?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry burrow Noun
small hole or tunnel used for shelter.
group of one species of organism living close together.
main or most important.
height above or below sea level.
Encyclopedic Entry: elevation geographic range Noun
distance at which a specific light (such as that from a lighthouse) is visible to the naked eye.
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: habitat hibernate Verb
to reduce activity almost to sleeping in order to conserve food and energy, usually in winter.
semiarid climate Noun
(dry climate) region that receives between 25 and 50 centimeters (10-20 inches) of rainfall every year.
lower order, class, or rank.