The Columbian Ground Squirrel is an engaging little animal of Western North America. One of its predominant habitats in our region is in E. C. Manning Provincial Park. The antics of the animals are entertaining, to say the least, and their behaviour provides opportunities for fantastic photos! We all know that they’re one of the most adorable and fun to watch critters of Hope, Cascades & Canyons but did you also know these five facts about them?
THEY ARE SOCIAL CREATURES
Typically, they live in colonies that have an approximate population of 60 squirrels per hectare. Within their colony, most of them will have their own intricate burrows in close proximity to each other, aside from mothers who share their burrows with their offspring (before they are old enough to survive on their own). It’s also common for them to be very friendly with other members of their colony. The standard greeting consists of touching their noses and mouths together for about 1-5 seconds, social distancing isn’t much of a concern to them.
THEY BUILD INTRICATE BURROWING SYSTEMS
They have immense levels of pride of ownership when it comes to their burrow. They can dig and continue to live in their same burrow for several years and may never live elsewhere. They’ll often even have certain chambers for specific purposes like a toilet chamber and a hibernation chamber. Year after year, they will work to make their burrows more comfortable and safer. They spend up to 7-8 months of the year in their burrow, so cleanliness and organization are a big deal for these tiny creatures!
THEY ARE MOSTLY PLANT EATERS
With a mainly herbivorous diet, they will typically eat grasses, leafy vegetation, bulbs, fruits, and seeds. Given the opportunity, they will also eat insects or carrion. Males will store plenty of food, mainly seeds, in their hibernation chamber just before starting their 7-8 month hibernation as they wake up about one week before most of their food sources start sprouting up. Despite their cuteness, the Columbian Ground Squirrel should not be given food at any time.
THEY LIVE ALL OVER WESTERN NORTH AMERICA
Photo Credits: Left – @tvarley88 on Instagram Right – @liamwithington on Instagram
Apart from Manning Park, the Columbian Ground Squirrel inhabits many other areas of Western North America. They can be found in the Rockies, as far north as Mid-West Alberta, and as far south as Central Idaho and North-East Washington. Fossils of the Columbian Ground Squirrel have been found to date all the way back to the Pleistocene, meaning that at the very least, they have been roaming and burrowing for tens of thousands of years!
THEIR BODIES CHANGE THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
Photo Credit: @offtheclockadventurers on Instagram
As one of the biggest ground squirrel species, they can be between 12-16 inches in overall length. They have a sturdy, robust build that can be observed frequently as they are often standing at attention to observe their surroundings and communicate with fellow colony members. Their short, dense fur is grey and brown in a variety of shades, making camouflage an easy task. They end their hibernation season with a very lean build as their body consumes its fat while hibernating. Mating season begins shortly after hibernation and after that, they will quickly start building up fat again for the next hibernation season. This post-mating season behaviour is where the Columbian Ground Squirrel and humans share their closest similarity.
Please note that we do not condone feeding the Columbian Ground Squirrels or any other wildlife in any circumstance. This photo is featured solely in memoriam of our dear friend and colleague, Chris Adams, and is not representative of our views or recommendations on interacting with wildlife.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Chris Adams, a beloved member of the Connect Media team. The day she met the Columbian Ground Squirrels of Manning Park, she was spell-bound and delighted watching their busy activity as they popped in and out of the ground and scurried about. She was passionate about all creatures great and small; all flora and fauna; and had a beautiful, wild heart. Chris loved gardening, reading, music, art, bee-keeping, exploring, learning, and was an expert at knitting and wool felting, often gifting her loved ones with hand-made gifts. She made each of her friends feel very loved and special. Smart as a whip, she was a great conversationalist and ardent supporter of human rights and freedoms. Although she left this earth far too early, she will live forever in our hearts.
*This blog post has been sponsored and submitted by Connect Media.