Home Smithsonian: National Museum of Natural History Home
Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Journals Lewis and Clark as Naturalists

Columbian Ground Squirrel

Capt. Lewis, May 27, 1806--There is a speceis of Burrowing squirel common in these plains which in their habits somewhat resemble those of the missouri but are a distinct speceis. This little animal measures one fo[o]t five and 1/2 inches from the nose to the extremity of the tail, of which the tail occupys 2-1/4 inches only; in the girth it is 11 In. the body is proportionably long, the neck and legs short; the ears are short, obtusely point, and lie close to the head; the aperture of the ear is larger proportionably than most animals which burrow. the eyes are of moderate size, the puple black and iris of a dark sooty brown. the teeth are like those of the squirel as is it's whole contour. the whiskers are full, long and black; it also has some long black hairs above the eyes. it has five toes on each foot; the two inner toes of the fore feet are remarkably short, and have short blont nails. the remaining toes on those feet are long, black, slightly curved and sharply pointed. the outer and inner toes of the hind feet are not short yet they are by no means as long as the three toes in the center of the foot which are remarkably long but the nails are not as long as those of the fore feet tho' of the same form and colour. the hair of the tail tho' thickly inserted on every part rispects the two sides only. this gives it a flat appearance and a long oval form. the tips of the hair which form the outer edges of the tail are white. the base of the hairs are either black or a fox red. the under disk of the tail is an iron grey, the upper a redish brown. the lower part of the jaws, underpart of the neck, legs and feet from the body down and belley are of a light brick red. the upper part of the head neck and body are of a curious brownish grey colour with a cast of the brick red. the longer hair of these parts being of a redish white colour at their extremities, fall together in such manner as to give it the appearance of being speckled at a little distance. these animals form large ascociations as those of the Missouri, occupying with their burroughs one or sometimes 200 acres of land. the burrows are seperate and are each occupyed perhaps by ten or 12 of those animals. there is a little mound in front of the hole formed of the earth thrown out of the burrow and frequently there are three or four distinct holes forming what I term one burrow with their mouths around the base of this little mound which seems to be occupyed as a watch-tower in common by the inhabitants of those several holes. these mounds are sometimes as much as 2 feet high and 4 feet in diameter, and are irregularly distributed over the tract they occupy at the distance of from ten to thirty or 40 yds. when you approach a burrow the squirrels, one or more, usually set erect on these mounds and make a kind of shrill whistleing noise, something like tweet, tweet, tweet, &c. they do not live on grass as those of the missouri but on roots. one which I examined had in his mouth two small bulbs of a speceis of grass, which resemble very much what is sometimes called the grass-nut. the intestins of those little animals are remarkably large for it's size. fur short and very fine. the grass in their villages is not cut down as in those of the plains of the missouri. I preserved the skins of several of these animals with the heads feet and legs entire.

Capt. Clark, May 27, 1806--There is a Species of Whistleing Squirel common in these plains which in their habit somewhat resembles those of the Missouri but are a distinct species. this little animale measures 1 foot 5 inches & a half from the nose to the extremity of the tail, of which the tail occupies 2 1/4 inches only; in the girth it is 11 inches the body is perpotionably long, the neck and legs short; the ears are short, obtusely pointed, and lye close to the head; the aperture of the ear is larger proportionably than that [of] most animals which burrow. the eyes are of moderate size, the puple black and iris of a dark dusky brown. the teeth are like those of the squirel as is it's whole contour. the whiskers are full, long and black; it has also some long black hars above the eye. it has five toes on each foot; the 2 inner toes of the fore feet are remarkably short, and have short blunt nails. the remaining toes on these feet are long slightly curved, black and sharply pointed. the outer and inner toes of the hind feet are not short yet they are by no means as long as the three toes in the center of the foot which are remarkably long bit the nails are not as long as those of the fore feet tho' of the same form and colour. the hars of the tail tho thickly inserted on every part respects the two sides only. this gives it a flat appearance and a long oval form. the tips of the hair which forms the outer edges of the tail are white. the bace of the hair are either black or a fox red. the under disk of the tail is an iron gray, the upper a redish brown. the lower part of the jaws, under part of the neck, legs and feet from the body down and belly are of a light brick red. the nose as high as the eyes is of a darker brick red. the upper part of the head neck and body are of a curious brownish gray colour with a cast of the brick red. the longer hairs of these parts being of a redish white colour at their extremities fall together in such a manner as to give it the appearance of being spekled at a little distance. these animals form large asco[i]ations as those of the Missouri, occupying with their burroughs one or sometimes 200 acres of Land. the burrows are seperate and are each occupyed perhaps by 10 or 12 of these animals. there is a little mound in front of the hole formed of the earth thrown out of the burrow and frequently there are three or four distinct holes forming what I call one burrow, around the base of the mound, which seams to be occupied as a watch tower in common by the inhabitents of those several holes. these mounds are sometimes as much as 2 feet high, and 4 feet in diameter, and are irregularly distributed over the tract they occupy at the distance of from ten to 30 or forty yards. When you approach a burrow the Squirels one, or more, usially set erect on their mounds and make a kind of shrill whistleing nois, something like tweet, tweet, tweet &c. they do not live on grass as those of the Missouri but on roots. one which I examoned had in his mouth two small bulbs of a species of grass, which resembles very much what is sometimes called the Grass Nut. the intestins of these little animals are remarkably large for it's size; fur short and very fine. the grass in their village is not cut down as in these of the plains of the Missouri. I preserved the skins of several of these animals with the heads feet and legs entire.

 
Smithsonian Institution
Copyright Notice
Privacy Notice