European ground squirrelSpermophilus citellus
European ground squirrels are the sleepyheads of the animal world. Some start hibernating in August and don’t wake up until spring. While they are dormant, their heart rate and breathing fall and body temperature drops to just a few degrees.
Length: 20 cm Tail: 6 cm
Foraging for food takes up most of their day. They eat throughout the summer to build up fat for their long hibernation. Their diet consists of plants, roots, seeds and fruit, and even the odd insect.
They dig long, deep passages leading to the burrows where they spend the winter, as well as shallower and more accessible dens for protection from predators.
Their natural habitat is shrinking due to cultivation of the steppe and fewer grazing animals to keep the terrain open.