Squirrel, Arctic Ground (Sik-sik)
The Arctic Ground Squirrel is also known as the Sik-sik. It has a beige and tan coat with a white-spotted back and a reddish face and sides. Its belly and the undersides of its legs are light brown. It has a short face with small ears and white markings around its eyes. The dark tail is short and bushy. The front paws are strong and well adapted for digging and burrowing.
The average length of an Arctic Ground Squirrel is approximately 15in (39cm) in length with an average mass of 26 oz (750g). Males are slightly bigger and heavier than females.
The Arctic Ground Squirrel is native to the Arctic and lives in alpine and arctic tundra in bushy meadows, riverbanks, lakeshores, and sandbanks.
In North America it is found in Alaska, in Canada in the Yukon Territory, northern British Columbia, and the mainland of the Northwest Territory.
The Arctic Ground Squirrel’s meat is similar to dark chicken meat although it has a muskier taste but it is slightly less greasy and the meat is more fibrous.
The Arctic Ground Squirrel is an herbivore that eats a wide variety of plants including seeds, berries, willow leaves, mushrooms, grasses and flowers. In the late summer it stores willow leaves, seeds and grasses in its burrow in preparation for the winter when it hibernates. It uses these food reserves during the winter when it wakes up and while it is waiting for spring plants to grow. They hibernate for up to seven months, from September through April.
Arctic Ground Squirrels live in large colonies of hundreds of squirrels that live in underground burrows. They are active in the afternoons and at night. When it is wet or cold they prefer to stay in their burrows. The burrows are at least three feet under ground and they are connected by a series of tunnels.
Arctic Ground Squirrel colonies consist of a dominant male who defends his territory. Pairs mate in mid May following the winter hibernation. The gestation period lasts for about 25 days after which the mother gives birth to between 5 to 10 blind and hairless pups that weigh roughly 0.35oz (10g) at birth. The infants begin to grow hair after about eight days and they open their eyes after 20 days. They soon venture out of their dens but they are only weaned after 6 weeks following which they split from their mother to find or make a burrow of their own. This is followed by rapid growth to bulk-up and prepare for the upcoming winter.
The Arctic Ground Squirrel is generally safe from predators and stays safe by escaping into their burrows. Grizzly Bears are however known to dig up a whole system of burrows in order to catch the squirrels.
They are very vocal creatures. Their name "Sik-sik" was actually given to them by the Inupiat Eskimos in Alaska because of the sounds they make.
Arctic Ground Squirrel
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