Sentinel of the north!

Whenever we go out on the tundra we might be lucky to see several wildlife ranging from caribou, foxes, migratory birds, sik-sik’s and the elusive muskox.  But on days when we aren’t as fortunate, we still get to see sik-sik’s running around on the tundra.  Sik-sik is the Inuit name for the arctic ground squirrel (Spermophilus parryii or Citellus parryii).  They are short and fat with a long tail and generally tan in colour with a white spotted back.  Sik-sik’s are found across the mainland arctic tundra and in open habitats of the subarctic boreal forest.  This might explain why I never saw any while we lived in Cambridge Bay which is located on Victoria Island.  I guess sik-sik’s have not found a way yet to migrate from the mainland to the island!  Sik-sik’s live in large colonies which we see all over the tundra and our dogs are very good at finding these colonies and trying to convince to come out to play.  Sik-sik’s are true hibernators and they hibernate from early-October to mid-April.

Sik-sik’s also have different warning calls in response to different treats.  The “tsik-tsik” call we hear so often are made in response to threats and can vary between different predators. Deep guttural sounds are used to indicate land-based predators while short “band whistle” chatter indicates danger from the air

The times when we do see sik-sik’s on the tundra which is almost everyday from spring to fall, they will usually present two different poses; “tundra glide” where they  press their body against the ground or “the sentinel” where they stand up straight looking across the tundra for any predators.  Occasionally though, we do see them in their more natural state and have been lucky to capture it on camera. – Sophia

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3 responses to “Sentinel of the north!

  1. They are cute little things, but leave holes everywhere. Some parts of Nunavut (western arctic) they still eat them, apparently you need 5 for a party.

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