Status. Rare species with suboptimal degradable, declining numbers and declining habitat are vulnerable to factors otnosheniiyu biogeotsenologicheskogo human or nature.
Distribution. The area covers the southern part of the mixed grass steppe and forest-steppe zone of the northern part of the subzone feather grass steppes of the Russian Plain. The east boundary of reach right bank. Volga River, in the south – to the latitude Kamyshin the west follows the line of Dnepropetrovsk – Millerovo, in the north – to the Oka-Volga watershed. In ranneistoricheskoe time (Holocene) speckled ground squirrel has been widely distributed in the mixed grass and feather grass steppe and southern forest. The current range greatly reduced due to the plowing, grazing and other anthropogenic disturbances habitats. Localization of modern settlements has mosaic nature and devoted to pastures, roadsides, slopes beams etc. (Titov, 2001 a; Belyachenko, 2006 b).
In the past, often been spotted suslik similar ecological niche with a small gopher, more environmentally plastic look. Due to intensive distribution to the north small squirrel, especially noticeable in the 1950-1970's., The area of the speckled ground squirrel retreated to the north. Therefore, the northern boundary of the range of small gopher served simultaneously as the southern boundary of habitat spotted. Properties of these closely related species studied V.P.Denisovym (1961, 1963). The border of the speckled ground squirrel in the region at that time held the line Saratov – Dvoenka – Wide Karamysh – Large Kopeny. Currently, the two ranges of these species diverged and do not touch (Ermakov et al, 2005). Border of the small squirrel retreated to the south, and speckled – to the northern districts of the region.
Number. In the valley. Volga in the areas occupied by local populations of rodents, its population density is about 15 individuals / ha. In the west of the abundance gradually increased, and in some localities reached 58-62 individuals / ha (Belyachenko, 2006 b). However, it should be noted that in the past 20 years there has been a downward trend in the number of animals, and the speckled ground squirrel habitat was divided into separate pockets. In Saratov region allocated 5 isolated populations – Volskaya, shirokokaramyshskaya, Saratov, Balashov and Kalinin (Titov, 2001 a). Decline is mainly due to changing climatic conditions and the scale of the secular influence of anthropogenic factors.
Limitations and security measures. The main factors of mortality are the freezing of the soil, late prolonged spring, the human impact (including direct pursuit), predation and epizootic. Among the mammals are the main enemies of the steppe polecat, stoat, weasel, fox, Korsakov, near population centers – domestic dogs and cats (Belyachenko, 2006 b). From birds squirrels extract common buzzard, black kite, hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), Owl, Saker (Falco cherrug), kestrel. Young animals are often killed by gulls (Gromov, Erbaeva, 1995). Biotopical factors limiting the spread of the speckled ground squirrel, is to ensure the feed resources and edaphic habitat conditions (Titov, 2000, 2001 b). Sward height for the speckled ground squirrel, as opposed to other types of ground squirrels is not critical.
In the whole area and the number of animals the number of local communities has greatly decreased over the past 30 years. The main causes of this process is the reduction of the areas of virgin and fallow lands and conducted until 1980. destructive measures with the use of chemicals. Currently speckled ground squirrel population split into small groups with a high degree of isolation, which leads to the degradation and disappearance of settlements. All this suggests a poor condition S. suslicus in the Saratov region and requires the protection of the species in the region. Listed in the Red Book of Saratov (Belyachenko, 2006 b) and Penza (Titov, 2005) regions, Annex 2 of the Berne Convention. In this connection it should completely eliminate any fishing speckled ground squirrel and implement measures to protect the remaining habitats.
A brief description. Relatively small ground squirrel body length up to 26 cm, tail – up to 5.7 cm, weight 500 g males slightly larger than females. Coloring the back is comparatively bright and colorful: the basic brown or light brown background unevenly distributed clear-cut and quite large (up to 6 mm) bright spots. Top of the head with the back of one color, sometimes darker. The eyes are surrounded by a ring of light almost white, brown spots under the eyes. Throat and head below white. Breast and upper limbs rusty ocher, the ventral side of the light gray to ocher-yellow. Tail bicolor with light speckled Gopher – Spermophilus suslicus lym edging, especially developed in the last third. Young animals can be placed in rows Krapina. Within the area the tone color brightens and dims on the direction of the south. Within the area dedicated 5 subspecies, different color and size. It is important to note that between speckled and small ground squirrels on the border areas in the 1960s. there were areas of introgressive hybridization. Zoologists have long wondered this as one of the possible directions of the evolution of mammals. Saratov mammalogy first described chromosome sets are not only closely related species (small and speckled ground squirrel), and their hybrids in the zone of overlapping ranges (Denisov, 1963 Belyanin, Denisov, 1975, 1980; Belyanin et al, 1982).
Habitats. Typical steppe species, native inhabitants of virgin steppe, even in rural areas tends to be stationary, with at least a vague resemblance with the steppe (Ognev, 1947). Settles in dry gullies, on pastures, pastures, meadows, waste lands, on the slopes of ravines and the upper river terraces Dipper and Khoper with preserved steppe vegetation. Temporary habitats are back roads and roadside areas, shelterbelts, old gardens, edges of fields with crops of corn and wheat (Barabash-Nikiforov, Pavlovsky, 1947). Prefers black soil with clay or loam subsoil (Gromov et al, 1965; Gromov Erbaeva, 1995). Moist soil avoids. In habitats selects high places with rich cereal grasses. Lowlands are used rarely and only as a forage habitats.
Especially biology. Speckled ground squirrel, depending on the particular habitat, forms of settlement of various types. Lives compact settlements and single. The first characteristic of the virgin areas. On floodplains, roadsides and on the "inconvenient" typical sparse settlement tape or single dwelling animals. In general, this type of lifestyle is characteristic of the group (Gromov, Erbaeva, 1995, Titov, 2001a). The basis of the settlement form compact groups of animals, consisting mainly of individuals of the same sex or of the same age (Titov, 2001 a). Speckled ground squirrel burrows builds two types: constant (vertical) and time (slope). In some cases, it seekers have otnorki and additional moves (Ognev, 1947). Permanent burrow complex, a length of 4-5 m feature of settlements speckled ground squirrel is a compact arrangement of shelters connected by paths.
The sex ratio in the settlements within the area varies with the seasons. In general, age structure of populations characterized by a predominance of females, but during the spring and summer it varies with almost double the excess of males to females five times. Age structure is characterized by a predominance of yearling and two-year animal. In hibernation gopher goes from July to late September – early October. Hibernation lasts 6.0-6.5 months. Terms wake stretched from late March to mid-April and are highly dependent on the temperature conditions of spring (Ognev, 1947 Popov, 1960 Gromov et al, 1965; Titov, 1999).
Daily activity has a distinct biphasic pattern. The appearance of the animals on the surface is observed at 8-9 h after drying dew drop in activity occurs in 17-21 h (Ognev, 1947 Gromov et al, 1965). Active adult animals is biphasic only during on-period of apprenticeship (11-12 h and 14-15 h). Young squirrels are found on the surface during the daylight hours (Gromov et al, 1965; Gromov Erbaeva, 1995). The mobility of the speckled ground squirrel in natural habitats is low. Settlements exist in the same place for a long time, the animals are sedentary and usually do not carry out feeding migrations. The only exceptions are males in rut and young at settlement. Young males compared with females settle further away from the brood burrows (Titov, 2003).
Reproduction is relatively low. Usually 57-96% of females breeding (Semenov, 1930 Popov, 1960). The main causes of female infertility are bad spring weather conditions, leading to resorption of embryos, and overpopulation. Estrus lasts for two weeks, pregnancy – 24 (22-27) days (Ognev, 1947 Gromov et al, 1965). Number of embryos varies from an average of 2 to 12. In broods typically 7.4 wort.
The basis of the diet are the green parts of plants (Ognev, 1947). Composition of the plant has to feed 50 species dominated by grasses (fescue, feather grass, oat grass, meadow grass) and flowering grasses (clover, yarrow, dandelion) (Titov, 2000). Seasonal change of feed is pronounced. In early spring the underground parts of plants used in the summer – their green parts, and in the fall and at the end nazhirovki – seeds (Gromov et al, 1965). Instinct of storing weak. Cultivated cereals (rye, wheat, barley, to a lesser extent) are eaten at any stage of growth (shoots, stems, leaves and grains), but the next 20-50 m from the edge of the animals do not come (Ognev, 1947 Gromov Erbaeva, 1995) . Due to focal distribution and low numbers of serious damage to agriculture gopher still does not work. Natural carrier of tuleryamii.