Ansel Adams Wilderness, California 2011

Belding’s Ground Squirrels spend almost three-quarters of their lives hibernating in large underground colonies, so they have only three months a year to forage, grow, and reproduce. Females come into estrus on a single day for a few hours, which heightens male competition for mating. The males engage in brutal, wound-inflicting, and even lethal combat. This, and the fact that males leave the territory where they were born and establish their own territories, results in a 3-4 year average life span for males; females average 4-6 years. Belding’s Ground Squirrels require succulent vegetation, are never far from water, and are common in alpine meadows and along cultivated fields and roadsides. They are known for their trill and whistle alarm calls, usually given by adult females. These calls alert nearby squirrels to the presence of a predator, but also alert the predator to the location of the caller, so alarm calls put the caller at risk while lessening the risk for other ground squirrels in the vicinity. Scientists call this an altruistic behavior.

  • Also known as:
    • Oregon Ground Squirrel
  • Sexual Dimorphism:
    • Males are slightly larger than females.
  • Length:
    • Average: 300 mm males; 290 mm females
    • Range: 270-315 mm males; 265-295 mm females
  • Weight:
    • Average: 360 g males; 300 g females
    • Range: 300-450 g males; 230-400 g females


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