One of the most common mammals in the park is the Wyoming Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus elegans formerly Spermophilus elegans). The Wyoming ground squirrel is one of six species of ground squirrels found in Colorado. Formerly called “Richardson’s ground squirrel,” the Wyoming ground squirrel averages 10 to 15 inches long and weighs 9 to 14 ounces as an adult. Its fur is generally a brownish smoke-gray, with a dappled pattern of cinnamon-buff. The underside of the tail is buff.
They are often mistaken for Prairie Dogs, however they are a little smaller. Wyoming ground squirrels have an underground burrow without the larger mounds, and most often what one sees is the ground squirrel darting into the hole for safety during the morning hours.
Wyoming ground squirrels prefer green foliage, such as grasses, but also eat forbs and shrubs. When green vegetation becomes scarce, the squirrels eat dry grasses and seeds. They also eat insects, including grasshoppers, crickets and caterpillars, and eggs from ground-nesting birds.
Wyoming ground squirrels construct and live in underground burrows. In brushy country, Wyoming ground squirrel burrows often are identified by a substantial pile of debris (sticks, rocks, sagebrush leaves) that covers the area downslope from the burrow entrance. Squirrels stay in their burrows at night and during the warmest part of summer days. The burrow is the center of a ground squirrel’s activity.
The squirrels enter their burrows in late July or early August and hibernate until the following March or April.
Predators of the Wyoming ground squirrels include bullsnakes, rattlesnakes, coyotes, foxes, badgers, weasels, bobcats and raptors.