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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals

  Rodentia · Sciuridae · Xerospermophilus mohavensis (Spermophilus mohavensis)

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Xerospermophilus mohavensis (Spermophilus mohavensis)

Mohave Ground Squirrel

Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae

Image of Xerospermophilus mohavensis (Spermophilus mohavensis)
Click to enlarge this image. (51 kb)

Conservation Status: Vulnerable.

The Mohave Ground Squirrel occupies a relatively tiny part of the Mohave Desert and is rarely seen, since it spends more than half the year underground in a burrow. Estivation—the hot-weather equivalent of hibernation—and hibernation last from mid-summer through winter, which lets them avoid the hottest, driest, and coldest months, when the least food is available. The amount of weight gained and lost by these animals annually is remarkable. Before "powering down," an individual may gain about 200 g, and then lose it all before emerging. With their large, time-sensitive energy needs, the animals are susceptible to prolonged drought, when plants produce less food. Under extreme drought conditions, Mohave Ground Squirrel may not reproduce. The squirrels are omnivorous but selective about what they eat seasonally. One of their preferred foods is the seed produced by the Joshua tree. These trees are defended against other squirrels.

Also known as:

Mohave Desert Spermophile, Mohave Desert Ground Squirrel

Sexual Dimorphism:



Average: 223 mm
Range: 210-230 mm


Range: 70-300 g


Merriam, C.H., 1889.  Description of a new spermophile from southern California, p. 15.  North American Fauna, 2:15-16.


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Distribution of Xerospermophilus mohavensis (Spermophilus mohavensis)

Image of Xerospermophilus mohavensis (Spermophilus mohavensis)
Click to enlarge this image. (158kb)

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