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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

Uinta Ground Squirrels can live seven years or longer, but few live more than four years. Predation is an important factor. Predators include badgers, which may account for more than a quarter of the deaths in a population annually, weasels, and birds of prey. Female squirrels and young tend to live in open habitats, possibly because predators are more easily seen there. Males—who become socially subordinate to females after the breeding season—generally remain outside a female’s territory and tend to keep out of sight. Still, males are more susceptible to predation than females. When they emerge from hibernation in the spring, Uinta Ground Squirrels feed on new, green vegetation. This green vegetation dries up in the summer, and the Ground Squirrels switch to a diet of seeds, putting on weight in preparation for a nine-month hibernation.

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Mammal Species of the World
  • Original description: Kennicott, R., 1863.  Descriptions of four new species of Spermophilus, in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, p. 158.  Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 15:157-158.
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Distribution

Range Description

This species ranges in the intermountain West of the United States, from southwestern Montana to southern Utah, including eastern Idaho and western Wyoming.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Intermountain west region of United States; southern Montana, southeastern Idaho, western Wyoming and north-central Utah.

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Geographic Range

Spermophilus armatus are found only in a small area of the United States. Their range includes southwestern Montana, western Wyoming, southeastern Idaho and northern central Utah.

(Whitaker 1996)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Spermophilus armatus are fairly large ground squirrels with a body length of 280-303 mm and tail length 63 to 81 mm. Skull length is 46 to 48 mm. The Uinta ground squirrels, as they are commonly named, have mixed, brown-buff colored coats. Their sides are slightly paler and their underbellies are pale buff to white. Their tails are black mixed with buff on top and bottom, with paler buff colored edges. The noses, ears and faces are more cinnamon colored. The ears are small and rounded with short fur.

(Whitaker 1996, Hall 1981)

Range mass: 284 to 425 g.

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Size

Length: 30 cm

Weight: 425 grams

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Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: Males are slightly larger than females.

Length:
Average: 920 mm
Range: 270-320 mm

Weight:
Range: 250-600 g
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Type Information

Syntype for Urocitellus armatus
Catalog Number: USNM A4794
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Unknown;
Preparation: Partial Skull
Collector(s): C. Drexler
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Fort Bridger, Uinta County, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1863 Jun 30. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. 15: 158.
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Syntype for Urocitellus armatus
Catalog Number: USNM A4808
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male;
Preparation: Partial Skull
Collector(s): C. Drexler
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Fort Bridger, Uinta County, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1863 Jun 30. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. 15: 158.
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Syntype for Urocitellus armatus
Catalog Number: USNM 5960
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Unknown;
Preparation: Fluid
Collector(s): C. Drexler
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Fort Bridger, Uinta County, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1863 Jun 30. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. 15: 158.
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Syntype for Urocitellus armatus
Catalog Number: USNM 3464
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female;
Preparation: Skin
Collector(s): C. Drexler
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Fort Bridger, Camp Scott, Uinta County, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1863 Jun 30. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. 15: 158.
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Syntype for Urocitellus armatus
Catalog Number: USNM 5959
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Unknown;
Preparation: Fluid
Collector(s): C. Drexler
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Fort Bridger, Uinta County, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1863 Jun 30. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. 15: 158.
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Syntype for Urocitellus armatus
Catalog Number: USNM A4809
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female;
Preparation: Partial Skull
Collector(s): C. Drexler
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Fort Bridger, Camp Scott, Uinta County, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1863 Jun 30. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. 15: 158.
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Syntype for Urocitellus armatus
Catalog Number: USNM 3476
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female;
Preparation: Skin
Collector(s): C. Drexler
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Fort Bridger, Camp Scott, Uinta County, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1863 Jun 30. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. 15: 158.
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Syntype for Urocitellus armatus
Catalog Number: USNM 5961
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Unknown;
Preparation: Fluid
Collector(s): C. Drexler
Year Collected: 1858
Locality: Fort Bridger, Uinta County, Wyoming, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Kennicott, R. 1863 Jun 30. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. 15: 158.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It prefers large open areas, such as dry meadows, pastures, and cultivated fields in high valleys. In western Wyoming, it occurs in shrub-steppe communities of sagebrush and rabbitbrush. Digs underground burrows. Females produce one litter of 4-6 altricial young per year. Young are born usually in April (Burt and Grossenheider 1964). Lives in large colonies. Feeds primarily on a wide variety of green vegetation and seeds; some invertebrates (e.g. earthworms) (Eshelman and Sonnemann 2000), and some vertebrates; accumulates great reserves of body fat. Usually active from spring through late summer (approximately April-August). Dormant during the fall and winter.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Dry meadows, pastures and cultivated fields in high valleys; also in montane grasslands and shrub-steppes almost to timberline (Eshelman and Sonnemann 2000). Digs underground burrows.

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Spermophilus armatus are found in the sagegrass mountain meadows of the western United States. Here they burrow in the soft soils. They can be found near timberline, in valley pastures, cultivated fields or along irrigation ditches. They are also sometimes found in lawns. They prefer moist habitats with lush vegetation and/or aquatic plants.

(Whitaker 1996, MacClintock 1970)

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Feeds primarily on a wide variety of green vegetation and seeds; some invertebrates (e.g. earthworms) (Eshelman and Sonnemann 2000), and some vertebrates; accumulates great reserves of body fat.

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Food Habits

Spermophilus armatus eat seeds, green vegetation, invertebrates and some vertebrates. They are often found near water, as they prefer succulent plants. They are strong swimmers and swim to retrieve species of aquatic plants. Uinta ground squirrels collect food for their periods of hibernation, during which they rely mostly on seeds stockpiled in their burrows.

(Whitaker 1996, Nowak et al. 1987)

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Actual abundance unknown, but "frequently occur in meadows and fields from 1219 meters along the Snake River up to 2438 meters in mountainous regions" (Eshelman and Sonnemann 2000).

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General Ecology

Lives in large colonies.

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Usually active from spring through late summer (approximately April-August). Dormant during the fall and winter.

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Reproduction

Females produce 1 litter of 4-6 altricial young/year. Young are born usually in April (Burt and Grossenheider 1964).

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The breeding season begins immediately after the end of hibernation in March or April. During this season males attract females with calls and scent markings. Scents are laid down by wiping their faces, which have aprocrine scent glands, against the ground. Breeding is also in part dependent on the social rank of individuals within the colony.

Females give birth to one litter per year usually sometime in May. Gestation length is 28 days. Young first emerge from burrow, 24 days after birth. After this female parental investment is minimal. First-year females bear, on average, 4 to 5 yong per litter, whereas older mothers bear 7 to 8 on average.

(Whitaker 1996, Balph 1984)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)

Reviewer/s
Amori, G., Koprowski, J. & Roth, L. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern because it is widespread, common, there are no major threats, and it occurs in a few protected areas.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Common within a somewhat restricted range.

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US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
This species is common.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
A number of occurrences of this species are appropriately protected and managed.
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Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Like other ground squirrels, Spermophilus armatus are destructive to crops, eating vegetables and harvesting seeds. Their winter stores of food consist almost entirely of seeds, including a significant amount dug up from farmers' plantings.

(Nowak et al. 1987)

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Wikipedia

Uinta ground squirrel

The Uinta ground squirrel (Urocitellus armatus), commonly called a Potgut in northern Utah, is a native of the northern Rocky Mountains and surrounding foothills of the Western United States. It is found in Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.

Their habitat includes dry meadows, grasslands, and cultivated fields close to water.

Description[edit]

The squirrels eat foods including seeds, green vegetation, insects, and meat. They are fully active for roughly 3½ months in the spring and summer before beginning estivation and hibernation in burrows underground. During their active periods the squirrels are diurnal and often live in colonies.

The squirrels mate in the early spring and females give birth after about a month of gestation. Young leave the burrow at twenty-four days. Litters usually include four to six young with older females generally producing larger litters. Adults weigh between 285g–425g.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G. (2008). "Spermophilus armatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Recent molecular phylogenetic studies suggest that the traditionally recognized genera Marmota (marmots), Cynomys (prairie dogs), and Ammospermophilus (antelope ground squirrels) render Spermophilus paraphyletic, potentially suggesting that multiple generic-level lineages should be credited within Spermophilus (Helgen et al. 2009). As a result, ground squirrels formerly allocated to the genus Spermophilus (sensu Thorington and Hoffman, in Wilson and Reeder 2005) are now classified in 8 genera (Notocitellus, Otospermophilus, Callospermophilus, Ictidomys, Poliocitellus, Xerospermophilus, and Urocitellus). Spermophilus sensu stricto is restricted to Eurasia.

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