Ground squirrels are colored brown or gray on the top and white underside. The tail is relatively short, as are the legs. The head has a typical squirrel shape and often you can see the large incisors. The environment in which the run-over animal is discovered, can give an indication to its species. The habitat of the European ground squirrel is all kinds of open habitats, so steppes, semi-deserts, tundra, rocky land and barren mountain ranges. Forest edges and bushy areas are also accepted, but ground squirrels are missing in dense forests. Likelihood of confusion is given with hamsters (yellow-brown on the top, dark underside, several white spots on the cheek and behind the front legs). However, hamsters are easy to distinguish from ground squirrels by their typical coat patterns. If the carcass is already lying for a longer time and the coat is bleached, one can distinguish a ground squirrel by its relatively bushy tail from the European hamster.
Ground squirrels occur in vineyards, farmland, fallow land, hay meadows and dry grasslands. Because these areas are sometimes in close proximity to busy roads, ground squirrels are often run over. Through the typical coat color, the ground squirrels are very difficult to detect in the dry grass on the roadside.