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Franklin’s Ground Squirrel


Franklin’s ground squirrels (FGS) were once common throughout the Midwest. Today they appear to be in a serious population decline across much of their former range. FGS are light brown to tan across the back, with a gray tail and a gray head. They are slightly smaller than the gray tree squirrel, and have shorter ears and tail. The Franklin’s ground squirrel is typically out of its burrow only on warm sunny days. Habitats vary somewhat, but a forest-grassland edge with water nearby is considered ideal. The 2005 FGS survey will make a more intense effort in southeast Wisconsin, but reports of sightings from anywhere in the state are welcome.
If you think you have seen a Franklin’s ground squirrel please contact info@chiwaukee.org

When To Start Looking: Franklin’s ground squirrels are semi-colonial and the males come up first, usually in April. The grasses are still short and the males are staking out territories and vocalizing (they sound similar to 13-lined ground squirrels). This is the best time of the year to search by sight and sound.

Where To Look: Habitat varies from fence rows to old fields, to even a city park. Several of the newer state mammal guides refer to the FGS as a tallgrass prairie dependent, but recent experience by Richard Bautz and others in the Midwest and Canada does not support this. The older literature by Jackson, Howell and Seton gives a more accurate habitat description. Optimal natural habitat for FGS includes tall and short grasses near a forest edge, ideally with a wetland, riverbank, or ditch nearby. Low brushy banks are very good. Dikes and old railroad grades serve as dispersal corridors and may be the best places to start looking. Burrows are usually located near the base of low-growing shrubs and are 2-3″ in diameter. FGS remove the dirt from the burrow entrance so they may be quite inconspicuous.

Additional information on the Franklin’s Ground Squirrel:

Chicago Wilderness Magazine: 2002 Winter Issue (page 27)