Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Common Name: Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
Scientific Name: Spermophilus lateralis
Size (length) English & Metric: 9"-12" (23-30cm)
Habitat: All forest types
Diet: seeds, nuts, berries, insects, underground fungi
Predators: hawks, jays, weasels, fox, bobcats, coyotes
Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel sitting near the rim
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel


Nineteen species of ground squirrels occur in North America. Bryce Canyon is home to two species, the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel and the Rock Squirrel. It is hard to mistake the two as the Rock Squirrel is usually twice the size of the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel and lacks the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel's stripes along its sides. The Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel can be identified by its chipmunk-like stripes and coloration, but unlike chipmunks, it lacks any facial stripes. It is commonly found living in the same habitat as Uinta Chipmunks.

Biology & Behavior:
The Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel is similar to chipmunks in more than just its appearance. Although it is a traditional hibernator, building up its body fat to survive the winter asleep, it is also known to store some food in its burrow, like the chipmunk, for consumption upon waking in the spring. Both the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel and the chipmunk have cheek pouches for carrying food. Cheek pouches allow them to transport food back to their nests and still run at full speed on all fours. By comparison, when a squirrel is threatened by a predator, it has to drop its food if it wants to make a quick getaway.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels dig shallow burrows up to 100 ft (30m) in length with the openings hidden in a hollow log or under tree roots or a boulder. The female gives birth to a single litter of 4-6 young each summer.

Conservation Issues:
The Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel is abundant throughout its range and is equally at home in a wide variety of forest habitats as well as rocky meadows, and even sagebrush flats. While the species as a whole is in no danger of extinction, individuals routinely suffer at the hands of humans with misguided good intentions. Feeding wildlife has become a chronic problem throughout America's National Parks.

Click here to learn more about the dangers of feeding wildlife.

When and Where to see Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels at Bryce Canyon:
The Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels can be found throughout the park. They are "trip over" common at picnic areas and overlooks where they become accustomed to being fed by irresponsible park visitors.

Whitaker, John O. 1996. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals. Alfred A Knopf, Inc. p937.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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