Urocitellus elegans - (Kennicott, 1863)
Wyoming Ground Squirrel
Other English Common Names: Wyoming ground squirrel
Synonym(s): Spermophilus elegans Kennicott, 1863
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Spermophilus elegans Kennicott, 1863 (TSN 180152)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102073
Element Code: AMAFB05190
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: 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/.
Concept Reference Code: B93WIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Spermophilus elegans
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.

Formerly included in U. richardsonii, but several authors have documented the specific distinctness of U. elegans (see Hoffmann et al., in Wilson and Reeder 1993; Thorington and Hoffmann, in Wilson and Reeder 2005). Includes subspecies elegans, aureus, and nevadensis, all formerly included in U. richardsonii.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 06Nov1996
Global Status Last Changed: 06Nov1996
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Fairly widespread in several interior western U.S. states; sometimes very abundant; habitat generalist; potential threats include plague and poisoning.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Sep1996)

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 Colorado (S5), Idaho (S3), Montana (S3S4), Nebraska (SH), Nevada (S5), Oregon (SH), Utah (S3), Wyoming (S3S4)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Interior western U.S. The subspecies occur in three areas that are probably geographically isolated: extreme southeastern Oregon (formerly), southwestern Idaho, and north-central Nevada (NEVADENSIS); northeastern Idaho and southwestern Montana (AUREUS); extreme northeastern Utah, southern Wyoming, northern Colorado, and extreme western Nebraska (ELEGANS) (Zegers 1984).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Sylvatic plague may greatly reduce or exterminate colony. Indiscriminate poisoning to control crop destruction.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Need information on population numbers.

Distribution
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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Interior western U.S. The subspecies occur in three areas that are probably geographically isolated: extreme southeastern Oregon (formerly), southwestern Idaho, and north-central Nevada (NEVADENSIS); northeastern Idaho and southwestern Montana (AUREUS); extreme northeastern Utah, southern Wyoming, northern Colorado, and extreme western Nebraska (ELEGANS) (Zegers 1984).

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 CO, ID, MT, NE, NV, OR, UT, WY

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 Owyhee (16073)*, Twin Falls (16083)
NE Morrill (31123)*
OR Malheur (41045)*
UT Daggett (49009), Rich (49033), Summit (49043)*
WY Albany (56001), Big Horn (56003), Carbon (56007), Converse (56009), Fremont (56013), Hot Springs (56017), Johnson (56019), Laramie (56021), Lincoln (56023), Natrona (56025), Park (56029), Sublette (56035), Sweetwater (56037), Teton (56039), Uinta (56041), Washakie (56043)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
10 Upper Wind (10080001)+, Muskrat (10080004)+, Lower Wind (10080005)+, Badwater (10080006)+, Upper Bighorn (10080007)+, Nowood (10080008)+, Greybull (10080009)+, Dry (10080011)+, South Fork Shoshone (10080013)+, Middle Fork Powder (10090201)+, South Fork Powder (10090203)+, Upper North Platte (10180002)+, Pathfinder-Seminoe Reservoirs (10180003)+, Medicine Bow (10180004)+, Little Medicine Bow (10180005)+, Sweetwater (10180006)+, Middle North Platte-Casper (10180007)+, Glendo Reservoir (10180008)+, Middle North Platte-Scotts Bluff (10180009)+*, Upper Laramie (10180010)+, Lower Laramie (10180011)+, Horse (10180012)+, Pumpkin (10180013)+*, Cache La Poudre (10190007)+, Lone Tree-Owl (10190008)+, Crow (10190009)+, Upper Lodgepole (10190015)+
14 Upper Green (14040101)+, New Fork (14040102)+, Upper Green-Slate (14040103)+, Big Sandy (14040104)+, Bitter (14040105)+, Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir (14040106)+, Blacks Fork (14040107)+, Muddy (14040108)+, Vermilion (14040109)+, Great Divide closed basin (14040200)+, Little Snake (14050003)+, Muddy (14050004)+
16 Upper Bear (16010101)+, Central Bear (16010102)+, Upper Weber (16020101)+*, Upper Quinn (16040201)+*
17 Snake headwaters (17040101)+, Gros Ventre (17040102)+, Greys-Hobock (17040103)+, Salt (17040105)+, Upper Snake-Rock (17040212)+, Salmon Falls (17040213)+, Upper Owyhee (17050104)+*, Crooked-Rattlesnake (17050109)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A ground squirrel.
Reproduction Comments: Mating occurs soon after emergence from hibernation. Gestation probably lasts 22-23 days. Females produce 1 litter/year of 1-11 (usually 6-7) altricial young. In northern Colorado, parturition occurred late April or early May, juveniles appeared above ground late May or early June (Fagerstone 1988). Young reach adult size by the end of the summer (Jones et al. 1983). In northern Colorado, successful breeding by yearling females may, in some years, be prevented by late emergence and low body mass attributable to deep snow and low temperatures (Fagerstone 1988).
Ecology Comments: Population densities may reach 10-20/acre (Jones et al. 1983). In large colonies, home range may be as small as 25-50 yards in diameter. One of the least social ground squirrels (Fagerstone 1988). May host fleas that transmit bubonic plauge. Predators include coyotes, badgers, hawks.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Alpine, Bare rock/talus/scree, Cropland/hedgerow, Grassland/herbaceous, Shrubland/chaparral
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil
Habitat Comments: Well-drained upland slopes covered by dry grassland or shrub steppe, especially sagebrush; mainly on slopes with loose sandy soils, suitable for digging burrows; mountain meadows, talus slopes (H. D. Smith, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). Young are born in an underground nest.
Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore
Food Comments: Feeds on seeds, flowers, stems, leaves, roots of grasses, forbs and shrubs. Will also feed on insects, especially in the late summer. Sometimes eats carrion.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Emerges from hibernation in the early spring. Active during spring and summer but becomes dormant again sometime between late July and early September. In north-central Colorado, adult males emerge in March, about 2.5 weeks before females; adult females immerged 1-1.5 weeks before adult males (late July and early August, respectively (Fagerstone 1988).
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: May damage grain and vegetable crops.
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
Help
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
Help
Authors/Contributors
Help
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 07Feb1996
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Mabee, T., and G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 13Oct1993
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
Help
  • Andersen, M.D. 2011. HUC10-based species range maps. Prepared by Wyoming Natural Diversity Database for use in the pilot WISDOM application operational from inception to yet-to-be-determined date of update of tool.

  • Andersen, M.D. 2011. Maxent-based species distribution models. Prepared by Wyoming Natural Diversity Database for use in the pilot WISDOM application operational from inception to yet-to-be-determined date of update of tool.

  • Armstrong, D.M. 1972. Distribution of Mammals in Colorado. Monograph of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas. University of Kansas Printing Service, Lawrence. 415 pp.

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

  • Clark, Tim W. and Mark R. Stromberg. 1987. Mammals in Wyoming. University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas.

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

  • Durrant, S. D. 1952. Mammals of Utah, taxonomy and distribution. University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natural History 6: 1-549.

  • Durrant, S. D., M. R. Lee, and R. M. Hansen. 1955. Additional records and extensions of known ranges of mammals from Utah. University of Kansas Publications of the Museum of Natural History 9: 69-80.

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

  • Fagerstone, K. A. 1988. The annual cycle of Wyoming ground squirrels in Colorado. J. Mamm. 69:678-687.

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

  • Hansen, R. M. 1953. Richardson ground squirrel in Utah. J. Mammal. 34: 131-132.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Jensen, J. N. 1965. The mammals of Rich County, Utah. M. S. thesis, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. v + 130 pp.

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

  • Jones, J. K., Jr., D. M. Armstrong, R. S. Hoffmann, and C. Jones. 1983. Mammals of the Northern Great Plains. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska.

  • 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.

  • Long, C.A. 1965. The mammals of Wyoming. University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natural History 14: 493-758.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Zegers, D. A. 1984. SPERMOPHILUS ELEGANS. Mammalian Species, 214:1-7.

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