Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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THE MANTLED GROUND SQUIRREL is a resident of parks in the Rocky Mountains, particularly Glacier National Park. It is most conspicuous around trail camps, chalets, and other stopping places, where it is quick to take advantage of food supplies, in the form of spilled grain or table scraps, provided by man.

These squirrels are of medium size, being about half way between the size of a chipmunk and the ordinary ground or digger squirrel. They have a chunky body, fairly short and rounded ears, and flat, bushy tails. Their total length, from nose to tip of tail, is about 11 inches; the tail, 4 inches, or about half as long as the body.

Because of the black stripes extending along either side of these animals they are sometimes spoken of as big chipmunks. These stripes do not involve the head as they do in the case of the true chipmunk.

The food of these little rodents consists of plant seeds, grain, buds, green vegetation, and insects and their larvae. Occasionally they will eat young mice or nestling birds and birds' eggs.

Mantled ground squirrels have many enemies, and are a favorite food of hawks, coyotes, foxes, and badgers. On July 27, 1929, at Lundy Pass, at an elevation of 10,500 feet in the Sierra Nevada, I had the unusual opportunity of watching a Sierra red fox attempt to capture one of these squirrels. The red fox was observed as it suddenly bolted out of a thicket of dense, scrubby, white-barked pine. From the suddenness of its appearance, I thought it had been fighting and was driven out by another fox. To my surprise, however, it circled around a clump of trees and rushed back into the thicket. In about 10 seconds a mantled ground squirrel rushed out of the same thicket and ran for dear life to the shelter of a large granite boulder 25 feet distant in the open meadow. Closely pursued by the fox, the squirrel managed to reach his burrow under the boulder, just 6 inches ahead of the fox's jaws which clicked audibly right at his heels. This incident shows the value of cracks in rocks, or burrows under rocks, and how importantly they serve as safety zones to these squirrels.


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Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010