Late last summer on the shore of Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park (Shasta County CA) I watched a pair of young golden-mantled grounds squirrels (Citellus lateralis) at play and eating an apple core tossed by a careless hiker. Although I previously did a post on golden-mantled ground squirrels (2 November 2011) these little guys are too cute not to share.
Found in the pine and fir forests of the Rocky Mountains, Sierras and Cascades in the West, golden-mantled ground squirrels like rocky places where they can find shelter or logs in open pine or fir forests.
Golden-mantled ground squirrels have golden yellow heads and shoulders. One white stripe on each side of their back is bordered by long black stripes. Often confused with chipmunks, golden-mantled ground squirrels do not have stripes on their heads as chipmunks do. Ground squirrels have cheek pouches that they use to transport seeds and fruit to their burrows.
Diurnal rodents, golden-mantled ground squirrels make their nests in the ground. Shortly after emerging from winter hibernation, golden-mantled ground squirrels breed. After 26 to 33 days a litter of blind, naked pups is born. Litter size ranges between two and eight with five being the average. The young remain in the nest for approximately 29 days before weaning. Females can have two broods in a season. A bit of trivia: golden-mantled ground squirrels have 42 chromosomes.
Golden-mantled ground squirrels are classified under the genus names Callospermophilus and Spermophilus, as well as Citellus in the literature with the species name, lateralis, constant.