You will notice on your next trip to Manning Park that as you set up your picnic at Lightning Lake, there are very few ground squirrels popping out of their burrows to see what’s for lunch.
But where did they go?
They have bulked up and gone down into their burrows to hibernate!
The Columbian Ground Squirrel spends only a few months above ground, emerging from its burrow in early spring to reproduce and indulge in all the delicious berries, seeds, roots, leaves, and grasses Manning Park has to offer before retreating to hibernate in mid-late-August. These squirrels live in fairly large colonies, and during spring and summer nights they retreat into elaborately constructed burrows to sleep, hide from predators, and give birth to their young.
Females actually enter hibernation later than males, because depending on when they have babies, the females have to first wean their litters before they can bulk up and gain the weight necessary to hibernate. So, females giving birth late in the season are among the last to enter hibernation.
When it’s time to hibernate, the ground squirrels construct a hibernaculum: a safe place to sleep throughout winter. A ground squirrel’s hibernaculum is built in burrows below the frost line, lined with a nest of finely shredded grass, and closed off with dirt at the entrance. During hibernation, a ground squirrel’s heart rate decreases and its temperature drops significantly as it waits for the colder months to pass by.
See you in the new year, Columbian Ground Squirrel!
My first thought was that Parks Canada or BC felt compelled to eliminate them via poisoning or other means of irradication because they may not be indigenous or perhaps were deemed a risk to the public. I find it hard to believe that in the 4th week of August 2020 with relentless hot sunny weather that the squirrels would simply pack it in for the winter if they didn’t really have to yet. Maybe they hibernated, however, a learned and credentialed opinion on this subject is invited.
The ground squirrels have habitated Manning Park for a very long time, and have gone into hibernation before September begins for many many years. We also get all of our wildlife blog posts fact-checked by our knowledgeable park interpreters, and would never share misinformation. Have a wonderful day!
I have to say that I went through Manning in both June and July and on both occasions I only saw a couple of them. So I think Donald is right and actually some measures were taken to ‘shrink’ the population.
All you have to do is go to Manning at the end of August you can see for yourself they are all almost gone. Every year same thing no matter the weather
Was also there Mid June and first week of July and even remarked to my husband . Saw 2 in July. As we visit every year and have seen so, so many ground squirrels, it sure makes you wonder.
Just got home yesterday, we seen a couple, lots of chipmunks though!
We were there in July and saw dozens and dozens – they were everywhere – at the Lodge, near the restaurant park, at Lightning Lake. As many as in May the year before. So many that when picnicking, one of our family had take turns to stay on guard to shoo them away while the others ate. Having been on many many interpreter talks and walks at Manning, there would be no way such environmentally aware and caring people like Jo would allow eradication, even if they are not native to the area. Cheers.