(Belding's Ground Squirrel)
Belding's ground squirrel is gray with reddish to pinkish above, and is distinguished from other ground squirrels by a broad, brown streak running down the back. Their tail is gray with a pinkish cast above, and reddish below with black-tipped hairs; that appears somewhat bushy. Total length is 10 to nearly 12 inches (253-300 mm), tail length is 2 ¼ to 3 inches (55-76 mm), and their weight is 8 to 12 ounces (227-340g).
From eastern Oregon, south through northeastern California, southwestern Idaho, north-central Nevada, and extreme southeastern Utah.
Usually found in fairly open habitat. Inhabits alpine and subalpine meadows, shrub steppe, grasslands, and pastures and croplands.
They feed primarily on grass, leaves of meadow plants, and seeds. Their diet may be less varied than that of other ground squirrels, but they are also known to occasionally eat birds eggs, insects such as grasshoppers, crickets and caterpillars.
They are active for longer periods during the spring and summer than ground squirrels that live in more arid habitats at lower elevations. They hibernate from late September to May or June. They dig underground burrows, or as documented in Idaho, they select used burrows. They live in colonies. In a California study, population density estimates varied from 1.2 per 2.5 acres (1ha.) in an alpine meadow, to well over 100 per 2.5 acres (1ha.) in an alfalfa field. High population densities may damage range grass and like other ground squirrels they may carry bubonic plague. They are preyed on by coyotes, hawks, snakes, badgers, and weasels. Interesting altruistic behavior has been observed in Belding's ground squirrels. As a predator approaches, the first individual to sight the predator typically gives an alarm call. Research has shown that the caller is at a higher risk of being preyed on by bringing attention to itself. However, this self-sacrifice or altruism, increases their relatives' chances for survival because their relatives, being closest to them, are the first to hear the alarm call. Research in California has also shown that yearling males and adult females occasionally kill and eat juveniles, a behavior that is difficult to explain.
Breeding occurs shortly after hibernation. Gestation lasts 23-28 days. Female reportedly produces 1 litter of 4-12 young, or average of 8 young per/litter. Individuals reach sexual maturity in 2 yr.
|Status:||Unprotected nongame species|
Important State References:
Hansen, R.M. 1954. The Belding ground squirrel north of the Snake River in Idaho. J. Mammal. 35:587.