Franklin’s Ground Squirrel, Poliocitellus franklinii
Franklin’s ground squirrel (Poliocitellus franklinii) is native to the northern area of the United States and Canada, inhabiting tall grasses on the American prairie. Joseph Sabine who named it after Sir John Franklin, a British Arctic explorer, first described this squirrel in 1822.
Previously, it was classified in the Spermophilus genus, within its own subgenus. However, genetic testing showed that it belonged in a different genus because it was paraphyletic, and so it was placed in its own genus. It is thought that these squirrels are related to ground squirrels and prairie dogs, but it is not a subspecies under either of those species.
Franklin’s ground squirrel will hibernate from early fall to spring, and after mating, can have litters with six to eight pups. It has a typical herbivorous diet of plant materials, but it will also eat insects, fruits, seeds, young birds, insects, eggs, and nuts if available. Because of habitat loss, Franklin’s ground squirrel is decreasing in number. However, because local populations are able to breed successfully and are thriving, it appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern”.
Image Caption: A Franklin’s Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus franklinii), in Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park, Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada. Credit: Alberto Cea/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)