2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Environmental Influences on Ground Squirrel Activity within Sagebrush Steppe

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Amy Ulappa and Dr. Jen Cruz


Small mammals act as key prey species for various species, including protected birds of prey. Understanding the factors that influence their behavior allow us to gain insight into the relationship with their habitat and predators. Piute ground squirrels (Urocitellus Mollis) are burrow-dwelling rodents that inhabit the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA) and serve as a model species for predator-prey interactions. The following research aims to understand how weather conditions and time of day influence ground squirrel activity. We predict that ground squirrels are most active on warmer weather days during the morning and late afternoon. To test this prediction, trail cameras were placed within open and closed habitats of the sagebrush steppe surrounding ground squirrel burrows to monitor their activity. Cameras were left from March 1st-23rd and photos were reviewed to record activity times and predictor information. This research allows us to understand when ground squirrels are most likely to leave their burrows and when these animals are most susceptible to predation. This allows researchers and conservationists to understand the predator-prey dynamics of ground squirrels and their elite predators (birds of prey) that inhabit this area.

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