Spermophilus columbianus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Spermophilus columbianus
Species Authority: (Ord, 1815)
Common Name(s):
English Columbian Ground Squirrel

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)
Reviewer(s): Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Chanson, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Least Concern because it is widespread, common in suitable habitat, and there are no major threats at present.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species occurs in the central Rocky Mountains in North America, from southeastern British Columbia and southwestern Alberta, Canada, south through northern and eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, northern and central Idaho and western Montana in the United States. Its elevational range is mainly 700-8,000 ft.
Canada (Alberta, British Columbia); United States (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Reported densities vary from 16.2/ha in natural habitats in southwestern Alberta to 61.7/ha in agricultural bottomlands in Washington. It is colonial and may attain pest status.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It is found in open habitat: high grass plateaus, sagebrush plains, valley grasslands, openings (meadows, clearcuts) in coniferous forests, alpine meadows, and stream banks. It is not very tolerant of dry conditions. Typically burrows in friable or sandy soils in open ground or bank under boulder or log. Also inhabits south-facing mountain slopes, and agricultural and grazing systems.

Mating occurs soon after females emerge from hibernation. Gestation lasts 24 days. Litter of 2-7 (average 2-4) altricial young is born May-late June. Nursing period usually lasts about 30 days. Sexually mature in 1-2 years.

This species is colonial. In southwestern Alberta, intercolony dispersal was mainly by yearling males; usually dispersed less than four kilometres but up to 8.5 kilometres (Wiggett and Boag 1989). Average home range of adult male was about 0.4 hectare, of adult female about 0.1 hectare. Adult males defend (primarily during breeding season) core areas within their home range. Adult females defend their territory near the nest burrow; and exhibit strong site fidelity. They are a reservoir for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and bubonic plague. Prey for various carnivores and diurnal raptors.

Diet includes a wide variety of vegetation: roots, bulbs, stems, leaves, seeds, and berries. Also eats some animal food (e.g., insects, mice, dead fish). May climb into trees and shrubs to obtain buds and fruits. Spends about 70% of year in hibernation.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no major threats to this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is not of conservation concern and its range includes several protected areas.

Citation: Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.) 2008. Spermophilus columbianus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 01 September 2015.
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