The San Jose ground squirrel (Otospermophilus Sanjosus) is a unique ground squirrel common primarily in San Jose, California. It can often be mistaken for the California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) of which it is nearly identical in appearance. These 2 species of ground squirrel are most easily distinguished from each other based on diet habits and social interactions with humans. The San Jose ground squirrel is most easily seen in and around the college campus of San Jose State University due to readily accessible food given out by the students and faculty.
These squirrels grow to an average of 30cm long (head and body) and can have a tail that’s 15cm long. The upper portion of their fur consists of a mixture of gray and brown hairs whereas their underside tends to be a lighter combination of the same colors. Their heads tend to have small amount of white hairs and their ears tend to have predominately black hairs.
Like most ground squirrels, San Jose ground squirrels live in communal burrows that they build themselves. It is common for them to build these burrows near areas where people gather such as parks or schools with open fields. These squirrels spend their entire life within 20m of their burrows due to the accessibility of their food sources. This is a major contributor to the high localization of this species of ground squirrel unlike other species that can be found across various geographical regions.
The diet of the San Jose ground squirrel consist mainly of human food discarded or given to the squirrels. Foods high in fat and calories such as those acquired from “fast food” establishments tend to be preferred over other other types of human food. Studies as to the effect of this type of diet on the health of these squirrels have proven to be inconclusive, but on average these squirrels do tend to weigh 2kg more than their closest relative the California ground squirrel (5-8 kg). This reliance makes this squirrel the most tame and interactive towards humans of any other species of ground squirrel.