Large (reddish) gopher - a large rodent, on average, only slightly smaller than the previous, but somewhat longer tailed: body length 230-330 mm, tail 60–105 mm, feet 41–51 mm, tail length averages about 1/3 of the body length (24.0–40.1 %).
The color of the top of the reddish gopher of the body is rather dark, ocher-brown, mottled with white ends of the hairs, the top of the head, except the nose, is gray, different from the color of the back. On the sides of the body and limbs developed reddish-ocher tones, the same color, but darker, sometimes with a rusty tint, spots under the eyes and over the eyebrows, sometimes delimited from the light cheeks, especially in animals in winter fur and in the eastern representatives of the species. Tail with well-developed two-color bordering. Seasonal fur dimorphism is clearly expressed.
The skull is large: length 46.2-57.4 mm, dentition 10.3-12.7 mm. Close to the skull of the yellow ground squirrel, especially in the eastern subspecies, it differs on average by the zygomatic arches more narrowly spaced in the anterior section and, therefore, more rounded outlines and a relatively smaller dentition, since the first preroot and last molar are reduced, the lower molar constantly has 3 roots, and the posteriorly of them is an independent nest in the alveolus. The lower incisors are, on average, relatively more hollow, and the diastema is longer. Bloating in the anteroposterior corner of the orbit and supraorbital foramen are less pronounced, and the infraorbital processes are longer and thinner. The sagittal crest in adult animals only rarely extends beyond half the length of the brain box.
The northern border approximately corresponds to the line: Morki (Mari Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic), Arsk, Chistopol, where it passes to the left bank of the Kama River: it lives in Zakamye (or more recently) in the triangle: the city of Osa-Kungur-Krasnoufimsk-Birsk, it bends around the Ural Range on the left river bank White, right bank of the river. B. Ik, on the left bank of Sakmara, passes somewhat east of Chelyabinsk and Sverdlovsk to Yalutorovsk, Ishim, Tyukalinsk, Omsk. The western border is formed by the left bank of the river. Volga, south to the mouth of the river. B. Irgiz, except for the site south of Ulyanovsk and to the northern parts of Samarskaya Luka, where it is found in a narrow strip on the right bank. The southern border goes along the Volsk-Uralsk line, down the left bank of the Urals down to ur. Kzyl-Tau in the Makat district of the Guryev region, reaches the southern limits in the middle reaches of the Emba, turns to lake. Kushmurun, bypasses from the south of Lake. Kurgaldzhin and, following the northern outskirts of the Kazakh Highlands, south of Pavlodar, goes to the Irtysh, which forms the eastern border of the range.
The modern range of the great ground squirrel is the eastern part of the vast in the past area of this and related forms, stretching in the Pleistocene to the steppes of southern Carpathian. Even in historical times, a large gopher lived west of the river. Volga (the remains are known from the right bank of the Don river of the X-XI centuries A.D.). The ancestor of the modern species should probably be considered the Middle Pleistocene C. birulai I. Grom. (in Iitt.), having a number of signs in the structure of the skull, bringing it closer to the yellow ground squirrel. The isolation of the great gopher occurred probably in the Upper Pleistocene. The most northern locations of fossil willows of the willow group major - Upper Paleolithic sites in the Don basin (Kostenki) and Berdtzh site in the Pripyat basin. In the south, finds are known in the Lower Don (Tsimlyanskaya region) and in northern Crimea, including its foothill part. In the Volga region, outside the modern range, the locations from the caves of the river basin are known. Yurezan, east of Ufa (semi-fossil and Pleistocene age) and from the river. Ural (lower course).
Large or reddish gopher (Citellus major)
Distributed in the steppe zone - both in the northern grassy steppes and in feather grasses, it enters the forest-steppe in the north and semi-desert in the south. It populates sandy areas in the depths of the Buzuluk pine forest and birch spikes in Western Siberia, and in the northwest extends its range due to deforestation. Distribution possibilities to the north are limited approximately to places where the duration of the period with an average daily air temperature above 10 ° is not shorter than 4 months a year. At the southern limit of distribution in some years falls into hibernation. Avoids heavy clay soils, preferring loams and sandy loams, enters soddy sands.
Wakes up in April, males already in mid-June cease to appear on the surface, mass hibernation in August. The average number of young in the litter is 8. Like a small ground squirrel, a two-phase cycle of daily activity and the rapid occurrence of all the main biological phenomena (gon, pregnancy, fat accumulation) are characteristic. In a number of areas of the range - a significant pest of crops. Forms a cross with a yellow ground squirrel. The commercial value, in comparison with this species, is not great.
The geographic variability of the large gopher is similar to that of the small gopher: the species fades to the east, sandy shades appear in the color of the top, the ocher color of the bottom turns pale, the two-color border on the tail is already made. The zygomatic arches in their anterior section of the eastern representatives diverge more abruptly, which makes the skull more rounded, the eye sockets enlarge, their upper edges rise more strongly above the surface of the forehead, the sagittal crest lengthens, i.e., signs characteristic of the yellow gopher skull appear. In addition, in the eastward direction, an increase in the relative sizes of the anterior pre-root tooth of the upper jaw and a decrease in the posterior-internal root of the lower pre-root are observed.
The following subspecies are known: 1) Citellus major major Pall. (1778) - large (body length 242-320 mm), dark-colored form with highly developed ocher tones in the color of the bottom, sides and bright parts of the head, in the structure of the skull the signs of the species are most clearly expressed, the north-western part of the range to the south approximately to Uralsk .
2) C. m. argyropuloi Baj. (1947) - close to the previous, but smaller, lighter coloration, more sandy tones, the fur is lower and less frequent, the zygomatic arches in their anterior section are more rounded, the anterior upper anterior one is relatively larger, the Wila, Emba and Temir basin.
3) C. m. ungae Mart. (1922) - the most excellent form, having a number of signs of the following type, relatively small (body length 230-280 mm), spots under the eyes and over the eyebrows of dark chestnut color, surrounded by white fur, gray color of the top of the head is duller, blackish rounded in zygomatic arches, with large eye sockets, the edges of which are strongly elevated, with the relatively largest anterior superior upper anterior root tooth. The eastern part of the range of the species.