Franklin's Ground Squirrel Project

Franklin’s ground squirrel was once common in central Alberta; however, it has become increasingly rare over the years. Many naturalists comment that they no longer see this species at all.

The cause of the decline is not known. In fact, we know very little about this animal at all, and that is part of the problem. It cannot be listed as a threatened species until its abundance and distribution are better described. This is holding back recovery efforts.

To help address this information gap, Nature Alberta has initiated a citizen science project focused on the Franklin’s ground squirrel. If you spot this squirrel, please submit a photo to iNaturalist, which is easy to do with the iNaturalist smartphone app. If you are new to iNaturalist, please see our Getting Started Guide. Your observations will contribute to the Franklin's ground squirrel iNaturalist project.

For listing the species, it is also important to describe the squirrel’s former range. If you recall seeing this squirrel in the past, please fill out the form below and let us know where and when you saw it, even if it was many years ago.

Identification

This mammal is more secretive than most other ground squirrels. It is usually found in shrublands and semi-open habitats and therefore has attained the moniker “bush gopher.” Franklin’s are the least social of the ground squirrels and live in small loosely knit colonies. They are the only ground squirrels known to also climb trees, though not as effectively as red squirrels.

The main challenge in identifying this squirrel is differentiating it from the more common Richardson’s ground squirrel (i.e., gopher). The key feature to look for is the long, bushy tail which is about a third the size of the animal. The color is grayish, fading to a light reddish tone. It is darker on the top of the head, with a white coloration around the snout and sides of the face. It is also a bit larger than Richardson’s ground squirrel.

These squirrels are most active above ground during the day, avoiding the heat in midday, by seeking shelter in shrubbery or disappearing in their den chambers.

Reporting Past Sightings

Please use the form below to report past sightings of Franklin's ground squirrels. For the location, enter the nearest town or recognizable landmark (e.g., Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary). For the date, enter the year, as best as you remember it. If you have any additional information to share, such as the number of squirrels seen or habitat changes, enter it in the "Notes" section. If you have multiple sightings to report, please submit them separately (refresh this web page after each submission to obtain a blank form).

We request your name and email so that we can follow up with you about your sightings, if necessary. Your email will not be shared or used in any other way.

Thank you for your help!

Photos

Ground_Squirrel_Nebraska_3719 - crop

Franklin's ground squirrel. Note the coloration and large bushy tail.

Gopher

Richardson's ground squirrel (aka gopher).

Red squirrels - T. LePrieur -crop

Red squirrel.

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