Columbian Ground Squirrel - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Columbian Ground Squirrel - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Columbian Ground Squirrel - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Columbian Ground Squirrel - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image 
Click on an image (if available) to see a larger version

 

Columbian Ground Squirrel
Spermophilus columbianus

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

Measurement: Size: 35 cm Weight: 400-1000 g

Description: As the prairies give way to the mountains, so does the Richardson's ground squirrel give way to the Columbian ground squirrel. Look for a large ground squirrel with a distinctive reddish tinge to its nose and belly. The back takes on a strong salt and pepper colouration. There may be a light patch on the shoulders and flank.

Range: They are found throughout the Canadian and American Rockies. Look for them in open meadows where they have room to build their colonies.

Diet: They are versatile feeders and will feed upon grasses, flowers, seeds, along with some insects.

In turn, these ground squirrels are a favourite of every fun loving predator in the mountains. Grizzlies dig up the colonies, and coyotes, lynx, weasels, badgers, hawks, and eagles

Reproduction: After competing for a territory adjacent to a female, mating occurs in the spring. After mating, the males produce a copulatory plug that seals the females vagina for at least a day. This helps to prevent other males from also mating with her. Gestation is 24 days, with the single litter of between 2 and 4 young being born in early to mid-May.

Notes: Columbian ground squirrels have an intricate social structure. The colony relies upon each other for survival, and sentries are always on the watch for eagles, coyotes or other predators. It is virtually impossible to approach a colony without the entire community being warned about your approach.

Columbians can become aggressive beggars at popular picnic areas, but please avoid the temptation. Most of the foods we tend to offer, cookies, popcorn, cheezies, etc, have no nutritional value for humans, let alone ground squirrels. While they leave the Columbians looking fat and healthy, they help build the wrong kind of fat. In all mammals, there is white and brown fat. The brown fat is necessary for helping us to maintain our body temperatures. The white fat is what we try to diet away. Unfortunately for the ground squirrel, the foods we give them promotes the growth of white fat. They may look healthy, but they can freeze to death in their winter dens.

If you still need another reason to let them find their own food, here's one more. In recent years, a few outbreaks of bubonic plague (yes you read it right), have been attributed to Columbian ground squirrels. They are known to carry the fleas that transmit the plague.

Search for recent Columbian Ground Squirrel sightings

Hire a guide to help you spot some Columbian Ground Squirrel


All Material Ward Cameron 2005

 

 

Animals by Common Name:

 

Animals by Latin Name: