2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Piute Ground Squirrel Population Emergence Patterns Affected by Habitat Types

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Amy Ulappa and Dr. Jen Cruz


To conserve species, it’s important to understand their habitats, population dynamics, and predator-prey relationships. Different species interact with their habitats in various ways. Many animals hibernate through colder months to conserve energy with the lack of resources that winter brings. The Piute ground squirrels (Urocitellus mollis) are small mammals commonly located in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA). The NCA has two different habitats: open, with low vegetation and less shade, and closed, with more vegetation and shade. If Piute ground squirrels’ emergence patterns in the spring are influenced by habitat types, we predict that squirrels in open habitats with earlier snowmelt have sooner emergence dates compared to those in a closed habitat. Earlier snowmelt provides more foraging opportunities since vegetation grows earlier. We set up motion-activated trail cameras in both open and closed habitats in the NCA near visible burrows, recording squirrel activity for 23 days in March. We can expect that open habitats influence Piute ground squirrels to emerge sooner due to increased sun exposure and therefore earlier snowmelt. These results may reveal how changing climates impact keystone species such as Piute ground squirrels by influencing the dynamics of their habitat types.

This document is currently not available here.