Skip to main content

Photos: The Many Mammals of the North American Deserts

Underground neighbors

Rock squirrel

(Image credit: NPS)

The rock squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus) is one of the larger members of the Scuridae family. It can grow up to 1 foot (31 cm) in length, not including its long, bushy tail. Rock squirrels burrow into the desert soil, creating both a long and complex underground system of tunnels. They are very social and live in colonies of a few females and one dominant male. They can climb the desert trees but prefer to spend most of their day forging across the land. They live well near humans and can become quite a pest when they invade a homeowner's attic or under the hood of a car.