Ground squirrels range in size depending on species. Generally the tail length is shorter than the body length.
Color ranges from light grayish brown to darker brown with lighter bellies. The tail is usually covered with long hairs but is not bushy as it is in tree squirrels.
Ground squirrels are rodents that are active during the day and spend much of their time digging extensive and shallow ground burrows. Their burrows are often found in and around rock piles or on hillsides and can be occupied by a single squirrel or groups of squirrels in a colonial system. In extreme cases these communal burrow systems may have almost 750 linear feet of burrow, over 30 openings and reach almost 30 feet deep. Ground squirrel burrows are also found in river and canal banks and can weaken levees; creating the potential for flooding.
Ground squirrels feed primarily on seeds, fruits, acorns, mushrooms and insects. They have been known to ransack gardens, destroying many of the fruits and vegetables.
Ground squirrels breed in early spring and produce one brood per year. Each brood contains an average of six young. If left unchecked, they can quickly populate to overwhelming levels, which can lead to mass destruction in very little time. Ground squirrels will even invade homes if given the chance.
Ground squirrels live an average of three to four years in the wild and up to ten years in captivity. Ground squirrels are carriers of fleas, disease and bacteria and have spread bubonic plague in the west.