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 is collaborating with Dr. Jessica Haines at MacEwan University on a citizen science project focused on the Franklin’s ground squirrel. You can read the latest updates about this project on Dr. Haines' website.

Get Involved

You can help us fill the information gap on Franklin's ground squirrels in the following ways:

Submit observations on iNaturalist

If you spot this squirrel, please submit a photo to iNaturalist, which is easy 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.

Submit historical observations

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 (scroll to 'Report Past Sightings') and let us know where and when you saw it, even if it was many years ago.

Spread the word

We are posting regular updates to the Franklin's Ground Squirrels in Alberta Facebook page. Follow the project's progress by following the page at:

Download and share the project resources including:



Where and when to look

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.

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.

Key physical features

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.

Click here to download and view the Squirrels of Alberta Identification Guide developed by MacEwan partners.

Distinctive call

Click below to listen to the distinctive trill of the Franklin’s ground squirrel, recorded by Dr. James F. Hare.

Doesn't it sound like an old-style phone ringing? It makes the best ringtone! Click the button below to download the distinctive trill call and set it as your ringtone. It will help you learn to recognize it and spark conversations to help raise awareness for this squirrel.

Watch the Squirrels of Alberta Presentation

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!


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


Richardson's ground squirrel (aka gopher).