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The Zoo has 2 female Harris's antelope squirrels, named Itsy and Bitsy. They are littermates, born on April 24, 2008 at the Houston Zoo. They arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo on September 2, 2010 and can be found in the Small Mammal House. A colored dye mark may be used to help keepers identify individuals.
The sandy color of these small squirrels sometimes blends in with their surroundings - look close!
Small Mammal House
The chipmunk sized Harris' antelope squirrel is grayish in color with some brown on its upper front and back legs. It has a white stripe on its side, a white underbelly and a bushy black tail that it often carries arched over its back. Its large dark eyes are ringed by white which gives the squirrel a spectacled appearance.
In the wild 2-4 years. In captivity they have been known to reach 6 years.
Harris' antelope squirrels are active during the day and have special adaptations that allow them to cope with the desert heat. Their body temperature is higher than any other non-sweating mammal (97-107 degrees F) and they will stay out collecting food until their body reaches its maximum temperature. Then they will rest in the shade and cool down before going back out. Their tail acts like an umbrella and is held up over their backs to help shade them as they forage for food. They have large home ranges and dig extensive burrow systems. They store food in their burrows which allows them to become inactive over the winter, although they do not truly hibernate. One or more of the burrows contains a nest, and the others serve as escape routes if the squirrels sense danger. They are always on the alert, since they are favored prey for coyotes, hawks, snakes and bobcats. At the entrance of their burrow the squirrels often stop, stamp their forefeet and call out as a warning to others before darting to safety.
Mainly solitary, these squirrels come together for the breeding season, which occurs in February and March. The litter is born 30 days later and may range from 5-14 newborns. They are born naked, pink and helpless and don't start really moving around or trying to eat until 4-5 weeks. They are weaned at 7 weeks but don't reach full maturity until almost a year of age.
Body length 8.5-10 inches with a 3-4 inch long tail.
4 - 5 oz
The Harris' antelope squirrel feeds on green vegetation, seeds, insects and the fruits of saguaro cactus in the wild. At the Zoo the squirrels receive a base diet of a commercial rodent biscuit. The enrichment portion of the diet includes a variety of nuts and seeds, fruit, eggs and greens. This promotes normal feeding and foraging behaviors and contributes to the overall nutrient intake of the animal.
They can be found in western, central and southern Arizona and extreme southwest New Mexico and northwestern Sonora, Mexico.
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