RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Three bright eyed and inquisitive young ground squirrels have just popped up in the grass. With quivering noses and shining eyes they are poised to vanish in an instant.
Still as statues they remain motionless, surveying their surroundings for the slightest hint of danger.
Finally, they relax their vigilance enough to begin snacking on grass using their little paws as hands. However, they never completely let down their guard, and while munching stand on their hind legs for a better view.
One particular stem looks enticing, but this youngster fresh out of the den has not yet quite mastered the dexterity to snatch the alluring treat while standing on his hind legs and balancing on a log.
Finally, after numerous attempts at grabbing the elusive stem, he firmly grasps it, but wait a minute…is it really that swaying seed cluster that beckons…whoops, we may have misjudged that.
The three curious youngsters reassemble in cloaking safety of grass and continue dinning on greenery. Suddenly, their mother appears and scampers to them for a joyful reunion.
After briefly checking on her young, she departs, and three little ground squirrels return to their munching.
They remain vigilant in her absence, and that is wise as danger sometimes slithers in their domain.
However, Mexican ground squirrels have evolved some resistance to rattlesnake venom that enhances survival in their shared habitat.
Mexican ground squirrels occur throughout South Texas, and while leaves, seeds and berries are their primary sustenance, they will soon be savoring their favorite treat of all…the tasty tunas of the prickly pear cactus.
Meanwhile, they will hone their dinning skills on terrestrial greenery before venturing onto the prickly pear patch where if they are not careful they might topple from a tuna.