Yellow ground squirrel is a large and sturdy type of ground squirrel, widespread in the territory of Turkmenistan and other countries of Central Asia. As a rule, it inhabits sandy steppes with wormwood, saltwort and tamarisk, avoiding completely arid and desert regions. Despite its preference for desert landscapes, the yellow ground squirrel is absent from the central parts of the Karakum and Kyzylkum deserts. In Turkmenistan, this species is most common in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya, in the valleys of the Murgab and Tejen rivers and in the west of the country.
The yellow ground squirrel got its name for the monophonic, sandy-yellow color of the back, with an admixture of black guard hairs. The color of the sides is lighter, the belly is even lighter, ocher-yellowish. The tail is bordered by two stripes: light yellow – outer and darker – inner. Young gophers are distinguished by a paler, yellowish color with an admixture of brown hair. Summer (June – July) fur coats of ground squirrels are pale, sparse, with a poorly developed undercoat.
The yellow ground squirrel is a solitary animal, lives in sparse colonies. Under the most favorable conditions, the population density is 5-8 individuals per 1 hectare. Due to the mosaic nature of the main habitats, colonies are often separated from each other by tens and hundreds of kilometers. Each adult ground squirrel occupies an individual feeding area, the area of which reaches 2-5 hectares. The site boundaries are marked and protected.
The forms of warning that the territory is occupied by the yellow ground squirrel are very different: from standing in a column on elevations to marks. One way is unusual for other gophers. It consists in the fact that the animal runs up to a mound of soil near one of its holes and makes several digs with its front paw. At the same time, the soil is thrown up, forming a sand fountain up to 1 m high, clearly visible from afar.
The yellow ground squirrel is more cautious and secretive than other ground squirrels. In case of danger, it quickly hides in the nearest hole or, caught far from the shelter, hides, crouching to the ground. The protective coloration helps it blend in with the sandy soil. In danger, it emits a sharp piercing whistle, which, in fact, is a scream, since the sound is made with a completely open mouth at maximum tension of the respiratory muscles.
In most of its habitats, the yellow ground squirrel is the main consumer of vegetation. It feeds on semi-desert and desert ephemera, bulbs and tubers, seeds and shoots of wormwood, grasses, etc. Its diet contains up to 30 plant species. During the period of fat accumulation, ground squirrels spend almost the entire daylight hours in search of food, consuming up to 200 g of food. The ground squirrel does not drink water, being content with the moisture contained in the feed. The yellow ground squirrel does not store food.