Friends of Kootenay Blog

Access stories and photos about the natural and human history of Kootenay National Park and Columbia Valley Includes highlights about the Friends of Kootenay National Park activities and programs.

 

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

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 Golden-mantled ground squirrel one of the 4 species of squirrels found in Kootenay. Photo by Alan Dibb


The golden-mantled ground squirrel was surveyed as part of Kootenay National Park's biophysical inventory back in the early 1980s, and was described at that time as widespread but uncommon in the park.

There is a perception, however, that this species is common and consequently few people have bothered keeping written records of its occurrence over the years since then.  An interesting question, 30 years later, is whether the golden-mantled ground squirrel still occurs in all the same places it did in the 1980s.  That inventory showed that golden-mantled ground squirrels occurred at Radium Hot Springs (pools), near the summit of Kindersley-Sinclair Trail, Mt. Wardle, Marble Canyon, and several sites above tree-line in Helmet and Ochre Creeks. These days, the place where golden-mantled ground squirrels are most frequently seen is probably the Stanley Glacier trail, where they are seen in close association with marmots and pikas.

Habitat in the park is described as rough, rocky, or broken ground, usually in mid to high elevations, but occasionally in rocky areas at low elevation. Surprisingly little is known about the timing of breeding and reproduction in golden-mantled ground squirrels in British Columbia.  In other areas of western North America, mating occurs in April or early May, shortly after emergence from hibernation, and litters averaging 5 young are produced in May or June. Animals of all ages remain inconspicuous in the spring until the young have emerged, consequently most observations are from late June through early September. Hibernation likely begins sometime in late August or September.  The latest date one of these squirrels has been recorded in Kootenay, Yoho, or Banff appears to be an observation from September 26, 2011 at Lake Agnes near Lake Louise.

The park is interested in your observations of golden-mantled ground squirrels this summer.   Please e-mail sightings information to Alan Dibb at alan.dibb@pc.gc.ca, and include a detailed description of the location.  If possible, attach a photograph so that identification of the animal can be confirmed.

 

        

                       Chipmunk - by Larry Halverson                    Golden-mantled ground squirrel - by Larry Halverson

Golden-mantled ground squirrels are an attractive and fairly distinctive animal, but sometimes confused with chipmunks (chipmunks are smaller and body stripes extend to head)