Urocitellus canus - (Merriam, 1898)
Merriam's Ground Squirrel
Other English Common Names: Columbia Plateau Ground Squirrel
Synonym(s): Spermophilus canus Merriam, 1898
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Spermophilus canus Merriam, 1898 (TSN 552499)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.101708
Element Code: AMAFB05210
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Rodents
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Rodentia Sciuridae Urocitellus
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Jones, C., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, M. D. Engstrom, R. D. Bradley, D. J. Schmidly, C. A. Jones, and R. J. Baker. 1997. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1997. Occasional Papers, Museum of Texas Tech University 173:1-20.
Concept Reference Code: B97JON01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Spermophilus canus
Taxonomic 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.

Urocitellus canus and U. mollis formerly were included in U. townsendii. Baker et al. (2003) and Thorington and Hoffmann (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) recognized the three taxa as distinct species, noting their distinct cytotypes and lack of hybridization. Includes vigilis (Wilson and Reeder, 2005).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Nov1998
Global Status Last Changed: 09Nov1998
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (25Nov1998)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Idaho (S1), Nevada (S3S4), Oregon (SNR)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Eastern Oregon (except northeastern and southeastern corners), extreme northwestern Nevada, west side of Snake River in westcentral Idaho (Hoffman et al., in Wilson and Reeder 1993).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Eastern Oregon (except northeastern and southeastern corners), extreme northwestern Nevada, west side of Snake River in westcentral Idaho (Hoffman et al., in Wilson and Reeder 1993).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States ID, NV, OR

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: Sechrest, 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
ID Canyon (16027)*, Owyhee (16073)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
17 Middle Snake-Succor (17050103)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Based on the related species S. MOLLIS (Rickart 1987, 1988), may be characterized as follows: Drought may suppress breeding. Gestation lasts 24 days. Litter size typically is 5-10; 1 litter per year. Males mature as yearlings or as 2-year-olds; females breed as yearlings.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Grassland/herbaceous, Shrubland/chaparral
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil
Habitat Comments: Mainly in high desert (sagebrush, shadscale, greasewood, western juniper), grasslands, pastures (Rickart, in Wilson and Ruff 1999); also in river valley bottomland. Generally in well-drained soils, especially embankments. Often around desert springs and irrigated fields. Makes extensive burrow systems. Young are born in a nest chamber in an underground burrow.
Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore
Food Comments: Main diet herbaceous vegetation (grasses, forbs, and exotic annuals), and seeds; may also eat some shrub parts and animal matter. Will often feed on crops. May climb bushes while foraging.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Emerges from dormancy in late winter or early spring (males before females) but returns to dormancy during May-July, when grasses dry out. May have separate period of activity in fall. Most active in the early morning.
Length: 27 centimeters
Weight: 325 grams
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Causes agricultural damage in some areas; has been subject of control programs.
Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Ground Squirrels

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Major water barriers; greater than 300 meters wide, or narrower if evidence or professional judgement indicates little or no dispersal across.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Recorded home ranges for most species are very small, 0.1 to 0.6 hectares (Evans and Holdenried 1943, Owings et al. 1977, Morton et al. 1974, Drabek 1973, Murie and Harris 1978, Recht 1977, Johnson 1981), occasionally up to 4 hectares (in S. parryii, Banfield 1974). However, most studies have not used radiotelemetry and likely have underestimated movements. For example, radio-tagged male Spermophilus mohavensis, a species thought to be characterized by very low vagility (Hafner 1992), have mating-season home ranges of up to 40 ha (mean 6.7 ha) and sometimes make movements of at least 1.5 km in a single day (Harris and Leitner 2004). Also, dispersing individuals travel much farther than available home range data might suggest. For example, juvenile S. townsendii dispersed a maximum of 1076 meters, with a mean of 515 meters (Olson and Van Horne 1998). Since actual dispersal surely exceeds documented dispersal, and other small sciurids readily return home after displacements of 1.6 km (see specs for antelope squirrels), it seems unlikely that ground squirrels observed less than 5 km apart and separated by suitable habitat would represent distinct occurrences.
Date: 12Mar2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings
Notes: Covers species of the genus SPERMOPHILUS.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 24Nov1998
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Baker, R. J., L. C. Bradley, R. D. Bradley, J. W. Dragoo, M. D. Engstrom, R. S. Hoffman, C. A. Jones, F. Reid, D. W. Rice, and C. Jones. 2003a. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 2003. Museum of Texas Tech University Occasional Papers 229:1-23.

  • Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada. 438 pp.

  • Dalquest. W. W. 1948. Mammals of Washington. University of Kansas Museum Natural History Publ. 2:1-444.

  • Drabek, C. M. 1973. Home range and daily activity of the round-tailed ground squirrel, Spermophilus tereticaudus neglectus. American Midland Naturalist 89:287-93.

  • Evans, F. C., and R. Holdenried. 1943. A population study of the Beechey ground squirrel in central California. Journal of Mammalogy 24:231-260.

  • Hafner, D. J. 1992. Speciation and persistence of a contact zone in Mojave Desert ground squirrels, subgenus Xerospermophilus. Journal of Mammalogy 73:770-778.

  • Hall, E. R. 1946. Mammals of Nevada. The University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

  • Harris, J. H., and P. Leitner. 2004. Home-range size and use of space by adult Mohave ground squirrels, Spermophilus mohavensis. Journal of Mammalogy 85:517-523.

  • Helgen, K. M., F. R. Cole, L. E. Helgen, and D. E. Wilson. 2009. Generic Revision in the Holarctic Ground Squirrel Genus Spermophilus. Journal of Mammalogy 90(2):270-305.

  • Helgen, K. M., F. R. Cole, L. E. Helgen, and D. E. Wilson. 2009. Generic revision in the holarctic ground squirrel genus Spermophilus. Journal of Mammalogy 90(2):270-305.

  • Ingles, L. G. 1965. Mammals of the Pacific States. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

  • Johnson, K. 1981. Social organization in a colony of rock squirrels (Spermophilus variegatus). Southwestern Naturalist 26:237-242.

  • Jones, C., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, M. D. Engstrom, R. D. Bradley, D. J. Schmidly, C. A. Jones, and R. J. Baker. 1997. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1997. Occasional Papers, Museum of Texas Tech University 173:1-20.

  • Jones, J. K., Jr., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, C. Jones, R. J. Baker, and M. D. Engstrom. 1992a. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1991. Occasional Papers, The Museum, Texas Tech University, 146:1-23.

  • Morton, M. L., C. S. Maxwell, and C. E. Wade. 1974. Body size, body composition, and behavior of juvenile Belding ground squirrels. Great Basin Naturalist 34:121-134.

  • Murie, J. O. 1973. Population characteristics and phenology of a Franklin ground squirrel (Spermophilus franklinii) colony in central Alberta. American Midland Naturalist 90:334-40.

  • Murie, J. O., and G. R. Michener, editors. 1984. The biology of ground-dwelling squirrels: annual cycles, behavioral ecology and sociality. Univ. Nebraska Press, Lincoln. xvi + 459 pp.

  • Murie, J. O., and M. A. Harris. 1978. Territoriality and dominance in male Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 56:2402-12

  • Olson, G. S., and B. Van Horne. 1998. Dispersal patterns of juvenile Townsend's ground squirrels in southwestern Idaho. Canadian Journal of Zoology 76:2084-2089.

  • Owings, D. H., M. Borchert, and R. A. Virginia. 1977. The behaviour of California ground squirrels. Animal Behaviour 25:221-30.

  • Recht, M. A. 1977. The biology of the Mohave ground squirrel (Spermophilus mohavensis): home range, daily activity, foraging and weight gain, and thermoregulatory behavior. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles. 117 pp.

  • Rickart, E. A. 1987. Spermophilus townsendii. Mammalian Species 268:1-6.

  • Rickart, E. A. 1988. Population structure of the Piute ground squirrel (SPERMOPHILUS MOLLIS). Southwest. Nat. 33:91-96.

  • Rickart, E. A., R. S. Hoffman, and M. Rosenfeld. 1985 [1987]. Karyotype of SPERMOPHILUS TOWNSENDII ARTEMESIAE (Rodentia: Sciuridae) and chromosome variation in the SPERMOPHILUS TOWNSENDII complex. Mammailan Chromosome Newsletter 26:94-102.

  • Schooley, R. L., B. Van Horne, and K. P. Burnham. 1993. Passive integrated transponders for marking free-ranging Townsend's ground squirrels. J. Mamm. 74:480-484.

  • Slade, N. A., and D. F. Balph. 1974. Population ecology of Uinta ground squirrels. Ecology 55:989-1003.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Third edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Two volumes. 2,142 pp. Available online at: https://www.departments.bucknell.edu/biology/resources/msw3/

  • Wilson, D. E., and S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 750 pp.

  • Yensen, E., et al. 1992. Fire, vegetation changes, and population fluctuations of Townsend's ground squirrels. Am. Midl. Nat. 128:299-312.

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