SIERRA GOLDEN-MANTLED GROUND SQUIRREL
GOLDEN-MANTLED GROUND SQUIRRELS are found in the mountains of southern Oregon and south along the Sierra Nevada to central California. They are among the outstanding mammals at Crater Lake National Park. Not only do they occur in considerable numbers, but the contrasting markings, the broad white stripe bordered on either side by a darker stripe, together with the golden color of their head, neck, and shoulders, make these rodents particularly noticeable. In addition to the brilliant coloring, their habit of quickly making friends with humans and of exploiting this friendship forces these animals upon the visitors attention.
The mantle of this species is a rich, rusty chestnut color; the back gray, grizzled with light brownish and blackish; the under parts vary from grayish to almost white; the relatively short tail is yellowish below, These animals have a chunky body and a total length of about 11 inches, including the tail which is about 4 inches long.
Mating season is in the early spring soon after they come out of hibernation. The young, which number from three to five in a litter, are usually born in June. By this time the annual grasses and other vegetative growth are sufficient to provide them with abundant food during the summer months. On the approach of fall they harvest great quantities of pine seeds which become available at that time through the opening of the cones on the pine trees. These ripe seeds are carefully gathered, transported in their cheek pouches which serve as pockets, and stored up in hidden caches in hollow logs, or in their burrows, for the proverbial "rainy day." They also eat many pine nuts as they work and thus store surplus fat in their bodies. One squirrel that I watched at Annie Spring Checking Station at Crater Lake in the fall of 1936 not only stuffed his cheek pouches so full of nuts that he looked as though he had the mumps (see illustration), but at the same time he ate so greedily that there were rolls of fat beneath his skin, particularly at the base of his tail. So greedy was this little squirrel that we called him "Stuffy."
Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010