Even though Fall isn’t officially here yet, the south-facing hillsides of Baldy Mountain are beginning to show off the new season’s colors, making a hike on one of my favorite trails (USFS trail 340 in the Baldy Mountain Roadless Area) an especially pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
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.
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.