- Mus suslicus Guldenstaedt, 1770
Speckled Ground Squirrel, Spotted Souslik
IUCN: NT; Be (II); RDBUkr: Зникаючі
Value of species
There are two chromosome races of this species: S. odessanus (36 chromosome) and S. suslicus sensu stricto (34 chromosomes). These are separated by the Dnieper River. The eastern Europe race is considered a separate species by many taxonomists. S. odessanus is declining more than S. suslicus sensu stricto.
The spotted souslik is endemic to eastern Europe, where it is found in south-eastern Poland, small areas in Belarus, the Ukraine, Moldova, and Russia eastwards to the river Volga. In Poland, the souslik occurs on the western edge of its range and it is known from one relic enclave located between the Wieprz and Bug rivers in the region of Zamosc (Glowacinski et al. 2001, Piskorski 2005). A lowland species, it occurs up to no more than 500 m (I. Zagorodnyuk pers. comm. 2006).
The spotted souslik has suffered marked declines in both population and range. Its extent of occurrence has contracted in both Poland and southern Russia, and the number of colonies in Poland and the Ukraine (where no more than 10% of the former range described in mid-twentieth century is left) has decreased markedly (Glowacinski et al. 2001, Piskorski 2005, I. Zagorodnyuk pers. comm. 2006). Populations in the southern and eastern parts of the range are more stable. Over the last ten years some populations have shown increases in population size. However, across the global range, the total population is declining, although the rate of decline over the last ten years is likely to be less than 30% (I. Zagorodnyuk pers. comm. 2006). The Polish population of the spotted souslik has been estimated at c.20,000 individuals living in 7 compact and no more than 10 scattered colonies. The most numerous of these colonies, with 10,000-12,000 individuals, is found at Swidnik airport (near Lublin) and is the result of an unofficial introduction in the early 1980s. The present population of S. suslicus is one third of what it was in the 1960s, the number of localities has markedly decreased and the area occupied has shrunk by a half. If this trend continues the souslik will die out in Poland at the first decades of the 21th century (Glowacinski et al. 2001, Piskorski 2005, Z. Glowacinski pers. comm. 2006).
Like its congener the European souslik Spermophilus citellus, the spotted souslik prefers open areas with short grass (including steppes, pastures, and road verges). Unlike the European souslik, it can also sometimes be found on cultivated ground and can survive ploughing (Macdonald and Barrett 1993). It feeds chiefly on grasses and cereals, although arthropods and small vertebrates are also taken.
In Poland the souslik is strictly protected under national law, and five nature reserves have recently been created to protect the species. Development of the system of nature reserves and active protection (reintroduction and habitat management) are recommended (Glowacinski et al. 2001, Piskorski 2005, Z. Glowacinski pers. comm. 2006).
- Татаринов К. А. Звірі західних областей України (матеріали до вивчення фауни Української РСР). - Київ: Вид-во АН УРСР, 1956. - 188 с.