Idaho Ground Squirrel, (Urocitellus brunneus)
The Idaho ground squirrel (Urocitellus brunneus), also called the Idaho Spotted ground squirrel, is one of the largest of the ground squirrel breed. It has two subspecies, both located in Idaho. Both the northern and southern Idaho ground squirrels have a sexual diphorism, where the males are usually larger than the females. This ground squirrel species generally weighs between .3 pounds and .4 pounds, with an average length of 9.2 inches. They hibernate from eight to nine months a year.
The northern Idaho ground squirrel can be found in Adams and Valley counties. Their population groups number about two dozen, thought to occur only between 3775 and 5075 feet. However, some groups have been found at up to 7500 feet. Although the most recent numbers from the Fish and Wildlife Service show that there are only 500 or less northern Idaho ground squirrels, there have been discoveries of them at higher elevations, meaning that there may be more than are accounted for. Fish and Wildlife Services and Payette National Forest employees have not yet surveyed many suitable areas for these ground squirrel habitats. Efforts are being made in order to help the northern Idaho ground squirrel. Currently, it is protected by an agreement between private landowners and the Fish and Wildlife Service that allows conservation efforts to be made on private land. Prescribed fire and timber thinning projects have shown promise in expanding some of the ground squirrel territory in the Payette National Forest.
The southern subspecies of Idaho ground squirrel became a candidate-endangered species in 2004. It is located in area about 48 by 113 miles. This area extends northwest from Emmett, Idaho to Weiser, Idaho as well as the surrounding areas of Henly Baisn in Gem County, Idaho , Payette and Washington counties, Squaw Butte, and Midvale Hill. This squirrel’s habitat consists of basins, rolling hills, and flats of up to an altitude between 2,200 and 3,200 feet. Its range is limited because of the Payette River to the south, the Snake River to the west, and by lava flows to the northeast.
Image Caption: Idaho Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus brunneus). Credit: FWS/Wikipedia
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