It has been a squirrelly kinda week so I thought I would keep it going with another type of Rocky Mountain ground squirrel. One that occasionally hikers will report seeing a “giant chipmunk ” and chances are they probably saw was a golden-mantled ground squirrel. It’s not surprising that people mistake the golden-mantled ground squirrel for a chipmunk on steroids. Both have black stripes running down their back, but unlike chipmunks, it lacks any facial stripes. The squirrel’s name comes from the golden brown or russet mantle over its head and shoulders.
The golden-mantled ground squirrel, a familiar resident of open woodlands, brushy forest-edge habitats, dry margins of mountain meadows, and rocky slopes. It eats seeds, nuts, berries, insects, and underground fungi. The squirrel can be tenacious in their attempts to get food from hikers and picnickers.
Scientists classify the golden-mantled ground squirrel as a true ground squirrel, though it will climb trees to reach seeds. Its genus name Spermophilus is Greek for “seed loving.” Like other ground squirrels, the golden-mantle packs seeds and fruit in its cheek pouches and stores the food in burrows, puts on a thick layer of fat, and hibernates in winter. Golden-mantled ground squirrels dig shallow burrows up to 30 metres (98 ft) in length with the openings hidden in a hollow log or under tree roots or a boulder.
The golden-mantled ground squirrel cleans itself by rolling in the dirt and combing its fur with its teeth and claws.
The golden-mantle ground squirrel’s annual cycle of life is to eat through the short summer and get fat, sleep all winter, wake up and breed, and then do it all over again. Unlike most other ground squirrels, the golden-mantle is a loner. It only spends time with others of its kind as a youngster with its mother and siblings.