Ground squirrels wake up following winter

Ground squirrels occupy a famous meadow in Muránska Planina national park.

European ground squirrels revisiting the meadow after hibernationEuropean ground squirrels revisiting the meadow after hibernation (Source: Radovan Vojenčák)
A helping hand in the heart of Europe offers for you Slovakia travel guide. A helping hand in the heart of Europe offers for you Slovakia travel guide. (Source: )

After winter hibernation, the European ground squirrels from Muránska Planina are awake again, luring visitors to the popular Biele Vody locality. The little performers have become a popular attraction, given that they take food directly out of people's hands visiting the national park.

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The well-fed ground squirrels are now ready for mating, Ervín Hapl, a zoologist and preservationist explained to the MY Novohrad regional newspaper.

The females occasionally hit the males with their paws but that is nothing to worry about, he added.

"The problem occurs when a female has several males interested in her," Hapl said, as quoted by MY Novohrad. "That is when a chase and even a skirmish can occur."

A late return of spring

Some ground squirrels started waking up later than in the previous year since this years' spring season began with colder weather, Hapl explained. He does not remember a spring such as this one.

"It is truly a cold one," Hapl told MY Novohrad. "The grass is not even growing like in previous years."

This is why the meadow still has not welcomed the donkeys that live in a certain symbiosis with the ground squirrels. The donkeys graze on the grasslands that are the habitat for these small creatures' colonies.

Hapl predicted that the donkeys should come to the meadow within the month. According to him, it all depends on how the weather evolves. Last year, the ground squirrels woke up five days early.

Biele vody location is to be admired

European ground squirrels are a magnet for tourists. Due to the pandemic restrictions, there are not many of them now, but Hapl believes this will change soon.

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There is a lot to admire in this location. In addition to the beautiful flora and fauna and the natural scenery, visitors can learn something new. There is an information board near the ground squirrel community. People's attention can also be caught by the small birdhouses in the trees, MY Novohrad reported.

The preservationists prepared small habitats for bats and other animal species, with some of them already occupied. In order to support other animals in this region, preservationists have also decided to plant the common sainfoin. This legume is a fodder plant and has health benefits for the soil.

"It is also nutritious for bees and butterflies," Hapl added for MY Novohrad.

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