Citellus (Colobotis) erythrogenys Brandt, 1843 - Red-cheeked ground souslik.

Systematic position:

The class Mammalia, order Rodentia, suborder Sciuromorpha, family Sciuridae, subfamily Marmotinae, genus Citellus, subgenus Colobotis. The species includes 5-6 recognized subspecies.

Biological group:

Rodent pests.

Morphology and biology:

Body length, up to 280 mm; tail length, up to 65 mm (usually 16 - 21% of body length). The dorsum coloration is from dark, ochre-brownish mottled with light ochre hair-tips to light, ochre-grayish with sandy tones and weak fluid pattern of dark color. Head coloration does not differ from back and neck coloration (from dorsal view), ochre-reddish tones appear usually on the bridge of nose; genal and superciliary spots are also with ochre-reddish tones. Tail with light (in dark forms) or monochrome marginal limb. Diploid set of chromosomes: 36. Inhabits steppes, forest-steppes, deserts, and semi-deserts. In mountains the species goes up to 2100 meters above sea level. Occupies pastures, fallow lands, road sides, and other inconvenient lands. In zones of intensive farming the rodents inhabit croplands and the edges of cultivated fields. Holes are of the same type as Little Souslik's holes, i.e., constant (vertical) and temporal (slanting) ones, but deeper, to 280 cm, usually 180-220 cm in depth; total length of underground tunnels are up to 475 cm.


Spread throughout the range of the territory of the former Soviet Union, in Central, Eastern and partly Northern Kazakhstan; in Altai and Western Siberia. Also spread throughout the territory of Mongolia and China (Xinjiang province).


Daily activity is more pronounced during daylight hours. In deserts adult individuals have summer numbness, which turns into winter hibernation. Dates of awakening, reproduction and bedding to hibernation drastically differ in different parts of area. In some years in the desert, dates of different activities may be shifted by 15-20 days in the same district, depending on weather conditions. Feeds mainly on vegetative fodders. Seasonal change of forage ration is well-pronounced; rodents feed by vegetative and underground parts of plants in spring and by the sappiest parts of plants and seeds in summer; in autumn the fraction of seeds is increased in ration. Reproduction process strongly depends on spring conditions; the intensity of reproduction is reduced during a cold and prolonged spring. Average number of young animals is 2 to 12 in a brood. The biggest number of holes (to 100 holes and 15-20 individuals of rodents on 1 ha) occurs in subzone of northern deserts.

Economic significance:

In the zone of developing virgin and long-fallow lands the Red-cheeked Ground Souslik is the most harmful pest of cereals (including corn), perennial grass, truck crops and oil crops (including sunflower). On pastures, rodents do damage to valuable fodder crops. Areas of strong harm include Altai, Eastern Kazakhstan (Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk, and Eastern Kazakhstan Regions), Western Siberia (southern areas of Novosibirsk, Omsk, and Kemerovo Regions). Main method of pest control is poisonous baits. High agrotechnics (farming standards) promotes the reduction of rodent numbers. The Red-cheeked Ground Souslik is a natural carrier of many disease pathogens such as encephalitis and rabbit-fever infection, and also leptospirosis, brucellosis, and plague infection. Insignificant object of fur trade.

Reference citations:

Gromov I.M., Bibikov D.I., Kalabukhov N.I., Meyer M.N. 1965. Terraneous Marmotinae. Fauna SSSR. Mlekopitayushchie. Moscow, Leningrad: Nauka. V. 3(2): 467. (In Russian)
Gromov I.M. Erbaeva M.A. 1995. Mammals of Russia and adjacent territories. In: Aristov A.A., Baranova G.I., eds. Lagomorphs and rodents. St. Petersburg: ZIN RAN. 522 pp. (In Russian)
Zaleskiy A.N. 1962. Influence of farming system on the dynamic of population and behavior of the Red-cheeked Ground Souslik in area of wind erosion. Proceedings of Kazakhstan Academy of Agriculture. Alma-Ata: Kazakh. Akad. Selskokhoz. Nauk. V. 7: 529-572. (In Russian)
Tolebaev A.K. 1958. Materials on ecology of the Red-cheeked ground souslik (Citellus erythrogenys Br.) in Kazakhstan and experience of rodent control with help of poisonous baits. Proceedings of Kazakhstan Academy of Agriculture. Alma-Ata: Kazakh. Akad. Selskokhoz. Nauk. V. 4: 222-273. (In Russian)

© Karlik F.A.


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