Great Basin Naturalist


Juvenile Belding ground squirrels were studied in the Sierra Nevada. Females were more trappable, had smaller home ranges, and tended to enter hibernation earlier than males. The primary sex ratio was 1:1. Individuals first emerged from the natal burrow at three to four weeks of age and a body weight of 35 g. Body weight and linear dimensions increased thereafter until hibernation began. Maximum prehibernatory weight of 200 to 260 g was attained at about 12 weeks of age. Prehibernatory fattening began at about six weeks of age. Maximum lipid stores attained weighed about 80 percent of the lean, dry body compartment. Seasonal changes occurred in weight of white and brown fat depots, adrenal glands, spleen, heart, kidneys, liver, and testes. Annual variations in snowpack and emergence schedule caused the reproductive period, and thus phenology of juveniles, to vary by as much as three weeks. The last animals to emerge were unusually small, being from late litters. Nonetheless, they may have had lipid stores sufficient for surviving hibernation.