Thursday, August 9, 2012
Constant Companions: Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel
At first, I thought they were chipmunks. During one of my first visits to the High Country East of Yosemite last summer, I kept seeing these striped critters darting in, out, and around rocks. I was on the hunt for pika, but my early companions were ground squirrels.
Prior to my trip, I had consulted the excellent Laws Field Guide to the Eastern Sierra, which had reminded me that the Sierra Nevada has one of the world's greatest diversity of chipmunks. And I did, in fact, see some chipmunks.
But I saw many more Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels. Or, at least, the squirrels were more willing to pose for me.
I did not realize my error until I returned to camp that first day and found this amiable critter sunning her/himself on a rock in my campsite. I was excited to finally have a good photo opportunity with a chipmunk who did not seem shy.
With the nice close-up view, I consulted my field guide again to determine the definitive identification of the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel (note the lack of the stripe on the face). Now that I knew the GMGS, they seemed to be my regular companions. Again, on my next excursion to look for pika, I saw a squirrel darting round the rocks and enjoying some grass.
On my final hike of this trip, into a more wooded area, with no pika territory around, I spotted this ground squirrel enjoying a mushroom meal.