From high on the boulders the rock squirrels have a fine view of my garden and come boldly to devour whatever small crop I’m nurturing. Rock squirrels enjoy a broad menu of delicacies and will indulge in fruits and berries of many native plants, insects, carrion, small birds and even other rodents.
Nearly a foot long, the rock squirrel is the largest of Arizona’s three ground squirrels. His impressive tail adds another 8-10 inches to his length and is used for balance and surely dramatic flourish. Rock squirrels live in rocky canyon lands in the wild, but are not above moving in among humans, burrowing with sharp claws under sidewalks and tree roots in urban and suburban areas. The burrow is a work in progress, enlarged every year with new apartments and entrances. The squirrels spend the winter snug in these expansive digs, perhaps plotting raids on spring gardens. Late spring brings mating season and after a thirty day gestation the females give birth to passels of 5-7 squirmy pups.
The debut of the young rock squirrels coincides quite well with the emergence of the coyote pups and the fledging red-tail hawks. A balance will be reached. On the Desert Museum website Pinau Merlin describes a scene between a rock squirrel and a hungry snake, telling how the squirrel stands its ground, stamping its feet and waving its tail to frighten the predator away. If that fails, Rocky kicks dirt in the face of the snake and makes a quick get away.