The Uinta ground squirrel is a squirrel of the western United States. It lives in colonies of between twenty and thirty individuals, in grasslands, meadows, and cultivated fields in parts of Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Looking a bit like a prairie dog that has lost weight, the Uinta ground squirrel has a brown back, slightly paler on the sides, and buff belly fur. The tail is black and brown, and the face and ears are cinnamon color. These squirrels measure about 11-12 inches in length, and the tail is about 3 inches long. They eat mostly seeds and green plants, but supplement this diet with insects and some small animals.
Uinta ground squirrels are active throughout the day, but only for about 3 1/2 months out of the year. From early fall until spring these squirrels hibernate in their underground burrows. The summer months are busy. In addition to gathering sufficient food to last through the long winter, females give birth to and raise litters of 4 to 8 young. The young typically leave the burrow and begin foraging about 24 days after being born.
One Uinta ground squirrel has recently made the news for its wide-ranging, if involuntary, travels. This squirrel (pictured below) was trapped by a truck driver at a highway rest stop near the Utah-Wyoming border. The unidentified trucker took the squirrel home to Wisconsin where he gave it as a gift to a family in the Madison area. After about two months, the family realized that the wild ground squirrel would never make a good pet, and they turned it over to the Four Lakes Wildlife Center, which is a division of the local Humane Society.
The species is not native to Wisconsin, so the most like course of action was, sadly, euthanasia. Fortunately, the wildlife center has been able to find a volunteer to transport the Uinta ground squirrel back to Utah. If all goes well, the squirrel will soon be back in its familiar habitat.