Montana Outdoors

August 18, 2014

A very pleasant surprise

Last week on very pleasant hike with a new friend I had just commented that there was practically no animal life on the rocky top of the mountain because of the deep winter snow there (at 7,400 feet) when his sharp eyes spotted this little fellow.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, Callospermophilus lateralis

This fairly large ground squirrel gets up to 12 inches in length and weighs as much as 13 ounces. It is an omnivore and can reside on that rocky mountain top because it will hibernate from some time between August and November (depending on altitude) until it again emerges any time from late March to May. (That’s a long sleep!)

It’s geographical range is from southeast British Colombia and southwest Alberta in Canada, south into the western United States as far east as western Colorado and as far south as northwestern New Mexico and southern California at elevations from 3,900 feet to 13,000 feet and it is very common in that range. Its life span is about 7 years. I can’t believe that I had never before encountered one!

For those who are interested, there is a wealth of information on them available at Encyclopedia of Life.


  1. What a treasure he is — and what a nice reminder that there always is going to be something new to see out there in the big, wide world. It’s just about time for him to start thinking about going back to bed. I’m off to read the article and see what else I can glean about this cutie.


    Comment by shoreacres — August 18, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

    • It is indeed a good reminder. I thought that I had seen every creature that inhabits these forests (except the wolverine) but somehow I missed this quite common one. I guess I just don’t get out often enough!


      Comment by montucky — August 18, 2014 @ 10:15 pm

  2. He’s awfully attractive. It’s so fun to spot new wildlife you’ve never seen before and then to capture it photographically makes it all the better.

    (Are you liking the new WordPress editor? I can’t say I’m fond of it, I’m still using the old one until they discontinue it, no doubt.)


    Comment by Candace — August 18, 2014 @ 9:15 pm

    • I was very lucky to get this one shot of the squirrel! The light was bad and I couldn’t even see him on the screen, just aimed near the large rock near him and got lucky!
      I haven’t paid any attention to the new editor. I suppose I will figure out how to co-exist with a new one, since we don’t have any control over it. Sometimes I like “progress”, most often I don’t. Our language, for example, seems to be “progressing” toward just a collection of grunts and hisses.


      Comment by montucky — August 18, 2014 @ 10:20 pm

  3. I’ve learned something today. I thought it was a chipmunk at first. They’re very similar, but I’d never heard of the golden-mantled ground squirrel. Now I have.


    Comment by wordsfromanneli — August 18, 2014 @ 9:32 pm

    • Everything I’ve read about them says that they are very common and plentiful, and yet this was the first one I’ve seen too. Amazing!


      Comment by montucky — August 18, 2014 @ 10:22 pm

  4. I really like the color combinations I am seeing between the cute squirrel and rocks..


    Comment by Mother Hen — August 18, 2014 @ 9:52 pm

    • The top 3/4 mile of that mountain consists of just those rocks and a few dwarfed fir trees. The rocks photograph well with their decorative lichens, but they are certainly not friendly to the hiker. Every time I descend back down to the dirt and gravel tread on the trail I feel like kneeling down and kissing the ground.


      Comment by montucky — August 18, 2014 @ 10:25 pm

  5. How lovely! You might be seeing them more often now!


    Comment by Jo Woolf — August 19, 2014 @ 12:35 am

    • I hope so: now I will be looking for them. As with all squirrels, I love their attitude.


      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

  6. What a cute little critter he is too.
    Your friend must have sharp eyesight as I imagine the squirrel would blend in to the rocks and earth quite well.

    (I dislike the new wordpress posting page intensely – it doesn’t work for me at all, so I’m going through the Dashboard with all the extra keystrokes to get where I want to go. If they keep this ‘update’ they may well lose this Aussie customer).


    Comment by Vicki — August 19, 2014 @ 3:37 am

    • I had to go look for the new posting page but haven’t tried it yet. I like the old one so I’ll stay with it until if/when they change it. I have a simplified way (at least in my way of thinking) of posting anyway, so it is easy to adapt.


      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

  7. Interesting. It looks a lot like our chipmunk, but sounds a lot bigger. One of things I love most about nature is how there is always something new right around the corner. I’ve seen 4 or 5 flowers this year that I’ve never seen before, and for someone who has been crawling around in these woods for 50 years, that’s pretty amazing.


    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — August 19, 2014 @ 4:27 am

    • Yes, he’s about 4 times the size of a regular chipmunk, probably closer related to the Columbian Ground Squirrel. I have had the same results with wildflowers, new ones every year after all of those years. The other day I stopped to get a couple of shots at what I thought was a new species but it turned out to just be a phase of growth that I had not seen before. You know, the excitement of seeing something new is still there though!


      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

  8. So sweet!


    Comment by bentehaarstad — August 19, 2014 @ 5:01 am

  9. What a cute little fellow … And interesting to learn more about … His specie donยดt exist in Sweden … We have only the red squirrel or Eurasian red squirrel …
    This is something I really appreciate being a part of, in this blogosphere … Being able to learn more about other countries wildlife and wild flora … // Maria ๐Ÿ™‚


    Comment by mariayarri — August 19, 2014 @ 6:08 am

    • I also love to learn of the plant and animal life in other parts of the world too. It’s very exciting to me, and makes me in awe of the incredible diversity.


      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2014 @ 7:52 pm

  10. Well, he’s a cutie and looks like a larger version of our chipmunks.


    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — August 19, 2014 @ 6:33 am

  11. Remarkably similar to a chipmunk. They must be very close relatives.


    Comment by WildBill — August 19, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

    • I found that Chipmunks, Squirrels, Ground Squirrels and Marmots are all in the Squirrel Family (Sciruidae). Lots of size difference though.


      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

  12. What an absolute sweetheart! A new species for me, for sure… ๐Ÿ™‚


    Comment by FeyGirl — August 19, 2014 @ 12:53 pm

    • Yes, this one is native only to the northwest part of America. I will look forward to seeing more of them now.


      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

  13. I was just thinking about hibernation and how it might come in handy for humans to have this capacity as well and for all sorts of reasons. ๐Ÿ™‚


    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — August 19, 2014 @ 2:15 pm

    • I think it would be excellent for our species. Humans tend to get all wrapped up in the fads of the moment and all tend to follow the current trend. A several month break from that every year would be nothing but good! Maybe even get a few folks to think for themselves!


      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

  14. You are roaming in the nature with open eyes! Love the photo.


    Comment by Sartenada — August 29, 2014 @ 3:54 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: