How did that grinnie get in my yard?

Community: Rick Hollis explores the possibilities

A 13-line ground squirrel was spotted in Rick Hollis' yard. How did it get there? (Rick Hollis/community contributor)
A 13-line ground squirrel was spotted in Rick Hollis' yard. How did it get there? (Rick Hollis/community contributor)

Editor’s note: Rick Hollis of rural North Liberty is past president and newsletter editor for the Iowa City Bird Club. 

I moved to my present house 16 years ago.

In some of those years I tramped on parts of almost every one of my neighbors’ yards. I thought I had a pretty good idea of the mammals in our neighborhood, going from large to small — deer, coyotes, red fox, gray fox, raccoon, beaver, otter, ‘possum, skunk, fox squirrel and gray squirrel, various bats, mole, white-footed (deer) mouse, chipmunk, house mouse and least shrew.

It would not surprise me to see a mink or a least weasel passing the neighborhood nor would the presence of a flying squirrel surprise me in the woodlands adjoining to our neighborhood.

Surely there were groundhogs in the neighborhood at one time.

In those 16 years I have never seen a 13-lined ground squirrel or grinnie in our neighborhood. Earlier this summer, my wife, Janet, called me to window and pointed out a grinnie in the flower bed under our feeders.


If you look at the aerial, you can see our neighborhood is pretty isolated from the places I see and expect to see grinnie. I have add some landmarks that might be familiar. The green bar at the top right is one mile. Two areas are marked with asterisks. Between my house and the reservoir, one asterisk is an area that was grassland when I moved but has progressively become more and more covered with scrubby young trees and blackberries.

The area marked with two asterisks is corps land and has been in variety of row crops — corn, beans and turnips.

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels have home ranges of two to three acres. If it was a perfect circle that would be 400 feet from one side, going to the other side. A young grinnie gets wanderlust, but how far can one expect it to go? I cannot see one going all that far. They have short little legs. The thought struck me that perhaps this was a mass migration of grinnies from North Liberty, out our peninsula, to tumble off the high ban near Bobbers and into the res. I do not believe this to be likely, surely there would be reports of this and video of the lemmings hurrying past a camera or hurling themselves off the area by Bobbers and into the res.


Could it have hitched a ride on car or a truck? Again this seems unlikely, its short legs making that difficult. Could a hawk have picked one up by the interstate? Maybe. But at its closest point, I-380 is more than two miles away.

How did the Grinnie get in my yard? I probably will never know, but I invite your suggestions.

l Contact Hollis at



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