Cape Ground Squirrel [Xerus inauris]
The Cape Ground Squirrel is a rodent endemic to South Africa. It measures 450 mm in length and weighs up to 1 kg. Upper parts are cinnamon coloured with a lateral white stripe on either side of the body. White underparts and the distinctive bushy fan-like tail have black based, white tipped hairs. The coat is coarse with little underfur. Winter coat is usually longer than the summer coat.
Predominantly herbivorous, and feeds mainly on roots and bulbs excavated with claws and front teeth. These hard food items are gnawed in typical rodent fashion with the sharp incisors. Always feed on the juiciest plants available. They occasionally take termites during summer.
Although females are reproductively mature at six months, only the ones older than one year are allowed to breed. Females have two pairs of mammary glands and normally give birth to two to six young per litter, each baby weighing 20 grams. Young are altricial and naked at birth. Caring for the young seems to be a community duty, since this task is shared by various females in a colony.
Only one adult male as main breeding partner is tolerated by the dominant females, who are normally accompanied by their young of the previous two years. Dispersal of offspring to colonies in adjacent territories only takes place after two years. This dispersal pattern allows for the formation of new groups and enhances gene flow.
Inhabits intermittent shrubby grassy plains. Where Cape Ground Squirrels occur the substrate vary from coarse sand to the harder, fine clay soils of pans and river beds.
Where they are found
Distributed throughout the Kalahari, Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Southern Cape Provinces towards the Beaufort-West/Graaff-Reinet district.
Very similar in habits and physical appearance to the Mountain Ground Squirrel [Xerus princeps]. Although persecuted by farmers the numbers of the Cape Ground Squirrel are stable.