The red-cheeked gopher belongs to the squirrel family, a rodent order.
External signs of a red-cheeked gopher
Red-cheeked ground squirrel is a medium-sized rodent with a relatively shorter tail than other species. Body length 23.5-26.0 cm, tail 4.1-5.9 cm.
Dark brownish-buffy to grayish-buffy sand tones prevail in the color of the top of the red-cheeked ground squirrel, with a faint, dark, streaky pattern. The head on top is not different from the color of the neck and back. On the nose, ocher-rusty tones usually appear. Cheek and eyebrow spots are painted in such color. Reddish tones on the sides of the body and on the extremities are poorly developed or absent.
The dark border of the tail is weak and the tail above is light monochromatic. Seasonal fur dimorphism is weaker than that of a large gopher.
The spread of red-cheeked gophers
The red-cheeked gopher is found in the south of Western Siberia from the Irtysh to the Tom River, the foothills of Altai and the Kuznetsk Alatau. In the north, the species is distributed no higher than 55 ° north latitude. In the south reaches the Karaganda region in East Kazakhstan, captures the Caucasian Highlands.Red-cheeked ground squirrel (Spermophilus erythrogenys).
Separate locations are known in Bedpak-Dala and in the Dzungarian Ala-Tau at an altitude of 1500-2100 meters above sea level. The red-cheeked gopher is also found in Mongolia (between Altai and Hangai) and in Xinjiang.
Red-cheek Gopher Habitats
The red-cheeked gopher lives in the zone of feather grass steppes and in semi-desert regions. In the north, it enters the forb steppe and the Altai birch-aspen forest-steppe. In the south it is found among rarefied saxaul forests, rises in the mountain steppes to a height of 2100 meters.
The gopher digs holes on the outskirts of the sand; does not avoid saline and gravelly soils.
Settles on virgin lands, pastures, roadsides, near crops. On arable land is rare.Red-cheeked gophers are found in the south of Western Siberia - in the flat semi-deserts and dry feather grass steppes
Features of the behavior of the red-cheeked gopher
The red-cheeked gopher lives in colonies, but each animal has a separate hole and individual territory. Rodent burrows are simple: with inclined and vertical passages, but relatively deep - 3.50 m. Earthy emissions (ground squirrels) at the inlets are not visible. The red-cheeked gopher arranges a nest from soft dry herbs. Noticing the danger, the animal freezes in a column at the hole and emits a sharp whistle - a loud alarm. Gophers, who are at that moment far from their burrow, first flee to their shelters, and from there they signal a danger.
After hibernation, the animals become lethargic and cannot quickly wake up. In this situation, they are completely defenseless against enemies that have penetrated burrows through an earthen jam.
In this case, the gopher becomes the prey of a successful predator.
The timing of periodic changes in the life cycle of the red-cheeked ground squirrel is very different in different regions. In the desert, they can shift by 15-20 days, depending on the climatic conditions of the year. In the hot season, the red-cheeked gopher falls into a summer numbness, turning into a winter dream. Rodents hibernate in August - the first half of September.The red-cheeked rodent is active in the daytime.
Breeding Red-Cheeked Gopher
The red-cheeked gopher awakens from hibernation in late March and early April. Reproduction strongly depends on the nature of spring: in cold and protracted spring, ground squirrels are not active, the breeding dates are especially long in the north. After mating, the female gives birth to from 2 to 12 cubs.
Red-cheek Gopher Eating
The food ration of the red-cheeked ground squirrel is made up of steppe cereals, their flowers, leaves, stems, seeds. The share of animal feed is not large.Red-faced gophers live in colonies.
Subspecies of the red-cheeked gopher:
1) Spermophilus erythrogenys erythrogenys Brandt - a dark-colored large, long-tailed gopher with a noticeable spotted pattern on the back and dark bordering of the tail. It lives from the Irtysh to the eastern limits of the territory.
2) C. e. Intermedlus Brandt - colored lighter and yellower, mottled pattern not pronounced. Inhabits the Kazakh Highlands.
3) C. e. Brevicauda Brandt - a small rodent and even more light-colored and short-tailed. It lives in the East Kazakhstan, Semipalatinsk and Taldy-Kurgan regions of Kazakhstan.
4) C. e. Iliensis Bcljaev - the color is light, fawn-clay; known from several points on the left bank of the river. Or. Both last forms are related to the Chinese S. e. Carruthersi Thomas.
Economic significance of the red-cheeked gopher
Red-cheeked gopher damages crops. Fishing is small. It is a carrier of dangerous diseases: plague, tularemia, and in some places it is the main carrier in nature.Gopher is a pest of crops of grain, garden crops and sunflower.
Captive Red-Cheeked Gopher
Red-cheeked gophers can be kept in captivity. For a rodent, a medium-sized cage is selected. It is better to keep a married couple in an enclosure with a size of at least 1x1 m. Shelters are placed inside: houses, boxes, pieces of pipes, as well as tree cuts for grinding cutters, drinking bowls with fresh water. Straw and leaves are used as litter.
After hibernation, the cells are covered with a thick layer of the same materials. During hibernation, gophers contain one at a time. Food: a mixture of wild and cultivated cereal grains, fruits, vegetables, field plants rhizomes, green branches of soft tree species.
Rodents willingly eat oats, sunflowers, grains of cultivated cereals.
You can add granular feed, carrots, bread, beets, flour worms, hamarus, herbs to the diet.
The importance of red-cheeked gophers in ecosystems
In ecosystems, the red-cheeked ground squirrel is the most important link in food chains. Rodents feed on: steppe ferret, corsac, fox, Buzzard, steppe eagle, kite, large gulls, steppe and marsh harrier, crows.Many steppe animals can occupy the gopher's dwelling or share it with them.
The number of natural enemies of ground squirrels sharply decreased after continuous plowing of virgin lands, since many predators on arable lands do not nest. Kites and large gulls exterminate many gophers only during their resettlement. Due to the drought, the number of nomad eagles and Buzzards increases, and the greatest mortality of young ground squirrels is observed during the deposition of fat in preparation for winter.
The red-cheeked gopher has roommates of holes. In the underground shelters of rodents: steppe pied poultry, large jerboa, narrow-necked vole, common vole, house mouse, Daurian hamster, Dzungarian hamster, Eversman's hamster, and steppe mouse.