Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
The golden-mantled ground squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) is a fascinating species found across most of the western United States and north into Alberta and British Columbia in Canada. With a distinctive striped appearance and several unique behaviors, this small mammal is a joy to see and watch in person. I have seen them in the wild in Washington State, Utah and Colorado and maybe elsewhere as well, but I don’t always make a positive identification on the ground squirrels I encounter in my travels.
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One interesting fact about the golden-mantled ground squirrel is its appearance. It has a golden-colored mantle on its back, which extends from its head to its tail. This coloring serves as a camouflage, allowing the squirrel to blend in with its surroundings. The dark stripes on its back and the white underbelly further enhance its ability to stay hidden.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Apart from its appearance, this ground squirrel has several intriguing behaviors. These squirrels are known for their habit of caching food. They collect seeds, nuts, and other plant material during the summer months and store them in underground burrows. This behavior helps them survive the harsh winter when food sources are scarce. It is estimated that a single squirrel can store thousands of food items in its cache!
Cascade Mountains near Lake Wenatchee, Washington State
Ecologically, the golden-mantled ground squirrel plays a crucial role in its environment. As an herbivore, it feeds on a variety of plants, including grasses, seeds, and berries. By consuming these plants, they help disperse seeds and promote plant growth. They also are a source of food for predators such as hawks, snakes, and coyotes, contributing to the overall balance of the food chain in their habitat.
Rocky Mountains near Lenado, Colorado
However, there are also ecological concerns regarding this species. One major threat to their population is habitat loss. As human activities expand into their natural habitat, their available living space decreases. This can lead to a decline in their population and disrupt the delicate ecological balance of the area. To ensure the conservation of the golden-mantled ground squirrel, their habitat needs to be protected. Conservation efforts can include preserving natural areas and creating wildlife corridors.
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