Richardson's Ground Squirrel - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Richardson's Ground Squirrel - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Richardson's Ground Squirrel - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Richardson's Ground Squirrel - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image 
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Richardson's Ground Squirrel
Spermophilus richardsonii

Chipmunks, Squirrels, Ground Squirrels and Marmots
Squirrel Family (Sciruidae)

Measurement: Size: 28-30 cm Weight: 300-600 g

Description: This exceedingly common prairie ground squirrel has a stripe-free body with a yellowish peppered coat and a long tail. They have a buff patch on the forehead. The Columbian ground squirrel has a much redder tinge and a salt and pepper coat.

Range: The Richardson's ground squirrel is exceedingly common along the eastern edge of the Canadian Rockies. Generally, if you see a prairie ground squirrel in Alberta, it's likely a Richardson's.

Diet: Richardson's Ground Squirrels are a versatile feeder of seeds, flowers, leaves, grasses, insects and carrion. There is also a tendency towards cannibalism. Along highways, when one of the colony falls victim to traffic, others may gather to feed upon the remains. They may in turn be killed by a second vehicle, and so on. They will also cache seeds within their den to help replenish their fat supplies when emerging from their winter hibernation.

These ground squirrels are a favourite food of hawks, eagles, owls, coyotes, fox, and weasels. Their large birth rate is necessary due to the high numbers lost to predators. Their communal colonies use a system of sentries to help keep vigil for any of these many predators.

Reproduction: The males emerge early from hibernation, using this early emergence as an opportunity to mate with as many females as possible. The males will occasionally battle each other for the opportunity to mate. The single litter of between 6-8 (sometimes as large as 11), will be born in late April or early May. Gestation is 22-28 days.

Notes:

Richardson's ground squirrels hibernate throughout the winter. They have a multi-chambered den, with numerous summer entrances. They will choose the deepest chamber for their winter hibernation. The entrance to the chamber will be sealed off with soil, and lined with plants for insulation. The males disappear much earlier than the females, often in mid-July. The females generally stay active until August. Juveniles will remain active until late autumn. The males also emerge first, often with the first warm weather of March and April.

Due to heavy attacks on Richardson's ground squirrels by farmers and ranchers, other species like the burrowing owl have suffered heavy losses. Poisoning and shooting ground squirrels, or 'gophers' as they are incorrectly called, seems to be a favourite pastime on the Canadian prairies.

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005

 

 

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