Ground squirrels are part of the squirrel or Sciuridae family who live on or in the ground rather than in trees. Although this includes the smaller Chipmunks and the larger animals known as Marmots, which include Prairie Dogs, it is usually used to refer to those of medium size such as the Richardson's ground squirrel.
The most well-know characteristic of ground squirrels is their tendency to rise on hind legs, doing so when they sense danger or simply to see over tall grasses. They have a loud screeching sound that can be used to warn of danger.
Ground Squirrels currently have a high price tag and are not widely available. They need a very large cage due to their size and energy levels and it can be extremely difficult and costly finding a vet willing to treat them.
Ground squirrels do not make good pets for children as they have sharp claws and a powerful bite. Although some may tame down well and bond quite closer to their owners, if given the correct socialisation some may remain quite wild and they are not always easy or happy being handled.
The most common medium-sized ground squirrel is the Richardsons Ground Squirrels. They are coloured a dark brown to the top, with more of a tan underneath. They have short, bushy tails which tremble frequently - leading to their nickname of 'flickertail'. The Richardsons Ground Squirrel is similar in appear to and sometimes confused with, prairie dogs, although the latter are considerably larger.
Less commonly available in the UK pet trade is the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels. A similar size to the Richardsons Ground Squirrel, the Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel has attractive striping down their backs.