Find the best places to hunt Rabbits and Hares in Canada and discover the Rabbit or Hares' Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Provinces with Rabbit/Hare Hunting

Province / Territory

Species

Season

Nunavut

Arctic Hare

 Season Available

Northwest Territories

Arctic Hare

Snowshoe Hare

Season Available 

Yukon

Snowshoe Hare

 

British Columbia

Eastern Cottontail

Mountain Cottontail

Snowshoe Hare

White-tailed Jack Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail

European Rabbit

Snowshoe Hare 

Alberta

Mountain Cottontail

Snowshoe Hare

White-tailed Jack Rabbit

Season Available 

Saskatchewan

Eastern Cottontail

Mountain Cottontail

Snowshoe Hare

White-tailed Jack Rabbit

 

Manitoba

Arctic Hare

Eastern Cottontail

Snowshoe Hare

White-tailed Jack Rabbit

Season Available 

Ontario

Arctic Hare

Eastern Cottontail

Snowshoe Hare

Eastern Cottontail

European Rabbit

Snowshoe Hare 

Quebec

Arctic Hare

Eastern Cottontail

Snawshoe Hare

Arctic Hare

Eastern Cottontail 

Snowshoe Hare

New Brunswick

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare 

Nova Scotia

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare 
Prince Edward Island Snowshoe Hare Snowshoe Hare 
Newfoundland

Arctic Hare

Snowshoe Hare

Arctic Hare - Labrador

Snowshoe Hare

 

 

 Edditor's Note:

 Rabbits are often seen in parks , or even you lawn. People come across these nets and will open them up to see the baby rabbits or think that they have been abandoned. Please do not even touch the nest as the mother rabbit will most likely kill the entire litter if you do.

Eastern Cottontail - Sylvilagus Floridanus

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Eastern Cottontail

The eastern cottontail may be one of the most common rabbits in North America but its’ not that common in Canada. The Canadian range exists only in the Southern portions of British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.

This rabbit requires a large quantity of low dense shrubbery or brush for cover mixed with open areas of grassland that can take the form of an old field, clearing, or unused pasture with lots of uncut green grass on which it can forage. The Eastern Cottontail is sometimes found in swamps and marshes but it is not a rabbit that is commonly found in the deep woods. It is likely to be more at home in an urban type setting where it can feed on garden plants and ornamental shrubs and use hedges for cover. In order to find this species look along the dense cover that surrounds the open fields or clearings. The cover may take the form of piles of brush, rows of trees or evergreens, or simply the edge of a forest.

To give you a better idea of it’s habitat. Where I used to live, this guy loved to forage on the uncut grass in my backyard. It would use the cedar hedge along the backyard as cover to hide in and I am sure if I looked hard enough there would have been a nest in there somewhere or under a nearby garden shed.

It occupies a home range less than 15 acres and with adequate habit can thrive on 2.5 to 7 acres. Areas of suitable habitat 40 acres or more in size allow for expansion of this rabbits’ population by giving it room for younger generations of rabbits to disperse into.

When feeding, this rabbit likes to keep some sort of hiding protection close at hand be it a hedge, garden shed, or trailer in the backyard that it can duck under.

Eastern Cottontail Range Map of Canada

Eastern Cottontail Range Map of Canada
 

 

Description of Eastern Cottontail:

 Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

 
Photo From - Peter Broster - Flickr 

Males and females of this species resemble each other in appearance but it is the female that is generally the larger specimen of the two. This rabbit has an overall length of 14 – 19 inches (35.5 - 48.5 cm.), a tail length of 1 – 3 inches (2.5 - 7.6 cm.), its ears are 2 – 3 inches (4.9 - 7.6 cm) in length and a weight of 1.7 – 4.4 lbs. (0.8 - 2 kg.).

In addition to its characteristic long ears, large back legs and feet, and a short fuzzy tail it also has the following attributes:  Its’ fore legs are shorter in length than its hind legs and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur. It normally holds its tail up against its’ back and for this reason you are seeing the underside of its tail which you perceive to be white.

The fur and colouring of this rabbit is as following:
  • The top part of its body is covered with a soft, dense fur that is brown to reddish-brown or grey in colour with a sprinkling of black.
  • On the back of its neck, there is normally a reddish-brown patch,
  • The belly is white
  • The underside of its tail is white.
  • Its legs and feet are normally a reddish-brown to buffy-brown colour.
  • Its ears are marginally darker than its back and may have black edging on them.
  • The Eastern often has a white spot on its forehead. 
  • A light tan coloured ring around the eyes.
  • The Eastern Cottontail is not like other rabbits or hares in that it maintains its colour throughout the winter and does not develop a white coat.
  • Younger members of the species are generally lighter and pale yellow-brown in colour than adults.

The Cottontail does not dig a burrow or den but instead it claws out dirt or grass to form a shallow depression in which it sits or rests. The eastern cottontail does not hibernate and is active all year long with most its activity at twilight and through the night. It spends its daytime hours resting in a shallow ground hollow located under vegetative cover or other shelter.

This rabbit usually travels short distances but it can be quite possessive of its territory.

Part of the defence mechanism of this mammal is its ability to remain motionless and blend in with its surroundings. It can sit still for 15 minutes at a sitting if it feels that it has not been detected. Once detected, it will hop along in a zigzag pattern, at a speed of up to 18 mph (29 km/h).

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Eastern Cottontail:

Rabbits and hares including eastern cottontails produce two types of feces one of which is consumed.

  • The first is a hard round feces or pellet that you are use to seeing when hunting for rabbits. 
  • The second is a soft smelly grape-like pellet that is covered in a thin layer of mucus and is produced in a pouch at the beginning of its large intestine and is called the Cecum. In herbivores, the Cecum stores food material for bacteria to break down cellulose fibres. These pellets are rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins, water, and bacteria and are re-consumed by the rabbit right after the rabbit passes it. This is done in order to prevent breaking the outer coats of the grains of these pellets. They are not chewed, they are simply swallowed. This process avoids the loss of nutrients and enables the fermentation of the food to continue.

The Eastern Cottontail is an herbivore and researchers have listed as many as 70 to 145 plant species in their diet. While it is almost and exclusive vegetarian; arthropods (spiders, insects, centipedes, mites, ticks) have periodically been found in pellet waste. 

Like most mammals, the diet of this rabbit is varied and largely dependent on forage availability. They feed by grazing and browsing food items that include bark, twigs, forbs leaves, fruit, buds, flowers, clover, grass seeds, sedge fruits, rush seeds, agricultural crops of oats, alfalfa, and soybeans, garden rose bushes, garden plants, and even my Japanese Maple. It has a liking for small material in that when it consumes a branch, twig, or stem it tends to only take those that are 0.25 in (0.64 cm) or less in size.

During the winter, this species will consume the woody parts of plants. With a characteristic clean, diagonal cut you will find it eating twigs, small branches, branch tips, buds, and bark. Preferred species include brambles, birch, oak, dogwood, maple trees but don’t rule out your garden ornament bushes.

Water is obtained mostly from the foods that they eat.

Rabbits and Hares are a cornerstone source of food for many species of the mammal world and the rabbit would be quickly wiped out as a species if their ability to breed rapidly and often was not part of their survival tools. On the other hand populations of rabbit / hares would explode if there was no natural predation.

The mating season for the Eastern cottontails can vary by its local but here in Canada it is from late February to early March and continues on until September with the female rabbit producing four or five litters annually and males mating with more than one female.

The Mating Dance

The rabbit and hare family go through a unique mating dance when going through the selection process. The buck (male) initiates the ritual by approaching the doe (female). The female may face the buck and fend off his advances with a boxing match of her front paws. Not put off by the does’ rejection, the buck continues to run or chase the doe. She may run, continue her boxing match or jump vertically in the air while he dashes under her in what looks like a game of hopscotch. At times, you may see both the male and female jumping vertically at the same time. I personally don’t know if this is a ritual or simply a process of wearing down the doe. In the end, the female will stand and allow the buck to mount her and complete the mating process.

The rabbit has a short gestation period of only 25-35 days (average 30 days). Prior to giving birth the doe will hollow out a slanting shallow nest or "scrape," in soft ground mostly located under the cover of a fallen tree, shrub, woodpile, brush pile, thicket, or hedgerow. The doe will line the nest with grasses or leaves and finally a layer of fur that comes from the underside of her belly. The average dimensions of a ground nest are 7.09 in (18 cm) in length, 4.9 in (12 cm) in width, and 4.71 in (12 cm) in depth. These nests are not exceptionally deep but deep enough that I have on occasion discovered a nest in my lawn with the lawnmower. Generally the nest is deep enough to not to harm the young but shallow enough to expose the nest. In most cases, the female will kill the young if this happens.

Litters can be from one to twelve young (kits), with an average of five kits. And over the breeding season she may produce 1 – 7 to seven litters a year with 3 – 4 being the average. The annual reproductive rate of does may be as high as 35 young. But the higher numbers are generally for more rabbits that live further south.

Does do not tend the nest continually, instead they return to the nest twice a day to nurse the kits. The young of the Eastern cottontail are born blind, and they have a very fine coat of hair. In 4 – 7 days the kits will open their eyes and around 12 – 16 days they will begin to make short excursions on their own from the nest. At 4 – 5 weeks of age they will be weaned from the doe, be independent of the doe, and she may be in the process of starting her next litter at this time. Dispersal of the kits is generally less than a mile from their birthplace and occurs at about seven weeks of age.

Rabbits reach sexual maturity at 2-3 months. It is estimated that 10 to 36 percent of females will breed the year they were born and the balance will wait their first spring after birth. 

It is thought that this rabbit could survive 7 years. The reality is that survival rate of wild rabbits are rather low, newborns perish quickly and many don’t make their 1st birthday with 6 months of age probably being the norm.

Status of Eastern Cottontail in Canada

The Eastern Cottontail is listed as a species of least concern (2008) on the Red list.

This rabbit has a long list of predators contend for its consumption. The key predators would be dogs, foxes, wolves and weasels. Birds of prey like Golden eagles, Red-tailed hawks, and great-horned owls will take either an adult or juvenile. Smaller birds like crows and shrikes will take kits given the opportunity.

Naturally, sport hunters harvest a lot of rabbits and mortally from vehicular interaction has got to be on the list.

Mountain Cottontail - Sylvalagus Nuttallii

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Mountain Cottontail:

The Mountain Cottontail rabbit is found predominantly in the United States, but this species in the last 117 years has been spreading to southern portions of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

There are two subspecies of this rabbit found in Canada.

  • Sylvilagus nuttallii grangeri is found in the most of the south-eastern portions of Alberta and south-western portions of Saskatchewan.
  • Sylvilagus nuttallii nuttallii has taken over the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of southern British Columbia at the expense of the White-tailed Jackrabbit.

Stands of aromatic sagebrush (Artemis) tend to grow on hills, slopes or dry plains and this species of rabbit prefers a thick sagebrush habitat with dry brush or rocks nearby. It will occupy these regions along with dried up stream beds, river bottoms, coulees, and ravines found below the sagebrush covered slopes and ridges. In addition to sagebrush habitat it may dwell in conifer forests, shrub-filled gullies and forest edges.

The key ingredients appear to be lots of low lying brush to hide in mixed in with plenty of vegetation. This cover becomes more important in the winter as this leporid does not change colour in the winter.

The number of mountain cottontails that reside in a particular area is cyclic in nature and varies each year depending on climate, habitat conditions, predation, as well as other factors. The home range of this cottontail will overlap with other cottontails and normally be a few hectares in size. When considering the home ranges of this cottontail, females generally occupy a smaller territory than that of a male.

Mountain Cottontail Range Map of Canada

Mountain Cottontail Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

 

Description of Mountain Cottontail:

 Mountain Cotton Tail

Mountain Cottontail

 
Photo From - USFWS - Flickr 

When compared to the Eastern Cottontail it is similar in many ways especially when it comes to habits, diet and reproduction and populations tend to be cyclic.

The Mountain Cottontail, also referred to as Nuttall's Cottontail is solitary and not a socialable species. For Bucks, reproductive activities and courting does are about as social as it gets. The female will spend more sociable time as it takes more time caring for its litters. In general, this rabbit spends more than 50% of its time foraging for food, does not hibernate, and is active year round mostly early in the morning and the late afternoon.

This is a medium sized leporid where the back of its body and tail is a greyish-brown colour with shades of yellow on top and finishing up with a pale white on the underside of its tail and belly. They have a substantially large tail that is usually held upright thus showing the underside its’ tail most of the time. For a rabbit its ears are relatively short and rounded but they have a distinctive narrow black line around the outer edge of them. Their long legs are reddish-brown in colour with long dense hair covering the underside of them. Their whiskers are white or part white in colour and never black.

Female Mountain Cottontails are about 4% larger than males. They are 13.5 to 16.6 inches (33.8-41.5 cm) long, the tail is 1.2 to 2.2 inches (3.0-5.4 cm) long, and they have a weight of 1.4 to 1.9 pounds (632-871 grams).

Even though this leporid species is solitary in nature and adults will chase off other individuals who get to close. Congregations of this rabbit can often occur when there is a high amount of foraging material in the vicinity.

When danger presents itself, it may remain completely still and quiet, even if it is closely approached. They are quite able to remain like this for 15 minutes if required. Once it feels that it has been detected it will normally run 16 – 49 ft. (5-15m) into dense cover, then sit with its ears erect and counts on its camouflage to conceal it. It may also use a burrow that has been left by some other mammal as shelter.

Wild rabbits have a lot of predators and life for them is short. Most live less than a year on the average but is capable of a 12 year life span.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Mountain Cottontail:

Rabbits and hares including eastern cottontails produce two types of feces one of which is consumed.

  • The first is a hard round feces or pellet that you are use to seeing when hunting for rabbits. 
  • The second is a soft smelly grape-like pellet that is covered in a thin layer of mucus and is produced in a pouch at the beginning of its large intestine and is called the Cecum. In herbivores, the Cecum stores food material for bacteria to break down cellulose fibres. These pellets are rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins, water, and bacteria and are re-consumed by the rabbit right after the rabbit passes it. This is done in order to prevent breaking the outer coats of the grains of these pellets. They are not chewed, they are simply swallowed. This process avoids the loss of nutrients and enables the fermentation of the food to continue.

Being a herbivore, the Mountain Cottontail only eats vegetation and feeds primarily on Sagebrush and Western Juniper,

They will also consume rabbitbrush and saltbush. During the spring and summer weeds and grasses like wheatgrass, needle-and-thread, Indian ricegrass, cheatgrass brome, bluegrass, and bottlebrush squirreltail make up part of its diet.

In the winter, lush green vegetation food sources become harder to get and their diet may switch over to woody plant material like buds, bark, twigs, and branches of shrubs or small trees.

For a rabbit it has a habit of going up into juniper trees to forage. It may also climb a tree to lick drops of water from the ends of branches or to eat foliage soaked in water. Because of these unusual quirks for a rabbit some people have thought this species to be semiarboreal (sometime dwells in trees).

Ranges of individual cottontails may straddle each other where feeding grounds can support a good population. Most foraging activity will be at dawn and dusk in clearings that are close to cover or within the shelter of brush.

Breeding and Reproduction of Mountain Cottontail:

The number of litters is mainly controlled by the duration of the growing season for the vegetation that grows in the local of the species' habitat. Here in Canada we have a shorter grown season so the number of litters will be lower. In British Columbia, this cottontail breeds between April and July and has a reproductive rate that can be from 4 to 5 litters per year and will contain 4 - 8 kits.

The Mating Dance

The rabbit and hare family go through a unique mating dance when going through the selection process. The buck (male) initiates the ritual by approaching the doe (female). The female may face the buck and fend off his advances with a boxing match of her front paws. Not put off by the does’ rejection, the buck continues to run or chase the doe. She may run, continue her boxing match or jump vertically in the air while he dashes under her in what looks like a game of hopscotch. At times, you may see both the male and female jumping vertically at the same time. I personally don’t know if this is a ritual or simply a process of wearing down the doe. In the end, the female will stand and allow the buck to mount her and complete the mating process.

After a gestation period of 28 - 30 days the young are born in a surface nest that is located in dense cover, rocky outcrop, under a barn or shed, or in an underground burrow. If a burrow is used it would not have been dug by the rabbit, it will be an abandoned burrow made some other mammal. Cuplike surface nests (also called forms) are scratched out of soft ground and will be 3.9 – 5.9 in. (10 - 15 cm) deep and 4.7 in (12 cm) wide, sometimes slanted into the ground. Be it a burrow or a ground nest, the mother rabbit will first line it with soft plant fibres or grass and then add a layer of soft fur from her belly. The kits are born in an undeveloped state where they are hairless and their eyes are closed. The doe will not occupy the nest herself but rather visits the nest once every 24 hours for about 5 minutes in order to feed the kittens. The doe produces a wholesome milk that has a very high content of fat and protein for the next 17 to 23 days. To nurse the young she will crouch over the nest and the kits will climb to the top of the nest to nurse and the milk is dispersed to the young at a high rate of speed. The kittens will stay together in the nest and the doe will then re-seal the entrance of the burrow or nest with sticks or grass when she has finished nursing.

This kind of maternal care or rather lack of physical contact between the mother and her kits is thought to be a reproductive strategy that lessens the odds of a predator finding the young and is called 'absentee parentism'.

The young do not open their eye for another 4-10 days after birth and will require daily care and feeding by the female. The young will leave the nest for short periods once they reach a weight of about 75 grams (5 oz) and they are totally weaned by 1 month. By 4 to 5 weeks of age they are quite capable of moving about independently, will reach sexual maturity at 3 months old and full maturity within a year.

It is possible for a female rabbit to breed the year that they were born but most females wait for their first spring after birth. Post-partum oestus is part of the females’ evolutional survival strategy allowing her genus to conceive immediately after giving birth. The second survival strategy is induced ovulation, in this case the act of mating / breeding causes the female to ovulate. When both of these two factors combined together allow leporids to maximize their reproductive rate in a given summer.

Male cottontails do not partake in the rearing of the kittens. However, they will display a behaviour called “policing” which is to intervene on behalf of a young rabbit should a doe attack it.

Status of Mountain Cottontail in Canada:

The Mountain Cottontail is listed as a species of least concern (2008) on the Red list.

Despite the fact that this species has no recent survey prairie populations are considered secure and stable. In British Columbia the population is considered limited and somewhat susceptible to decline.

The first recorded occurrence of this species in BC was in 1939 and since then it now inhabits all the cottontails available environment in the Similkameen and Okanagan valleys. This expansion provides proof that the population may actually be stable but it might also suggest that its' range will not expand further.

Predators of the Mountain Cottontail include gopher snakes, western rattlesnakes, foxes, birds of prey, coyotes, bobcats, and martens.

Snowshoe Hare - Lepus americanu

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Snowshoe Hare:

Found only in North America one of our most familiar forest animals is the Snowshoe hare.Evolution has given this animal large hind feet that allows it to hop and walk on top of snow and derives its’ name from those large feet. It may also be given the name varying hare, or snowshoe rabbit.

Using the 60th parallel as a landmark, south of the parallel this hare occupies every province in Canada and there are some very small patches of territory in Southern Alberta, Northern Manitoba and Southern Ontario that it does not exist. North of the 60th parallel, again it has range in almost every province or territory with Nunavut being the exception. Small notable exceptions also exist in the northern sectors of the Yukon, NWT, Quebec and Labrador.

This hare tends to be cautious and secretive. It will go unnoticed in the summer months and it will not be until the first snows of the season that its distinctive footprints will give away its existence.

Because of cover quality, young forests with an abundant dense softwood underbrush support greater snowshoe hare densities better than hardwood forests do. Major factors in determining in habitat quality are not only the availability of plant material to feed on but it must have cover. The under story formed by young trees or tall shrubs must dense enough to provide it protection from predation.

Many types of forest are utilized by Snowshoe hares.

  • In areas of eastern Canada and highland areas the Snowshoe uses forests that are mainly coniferous (spruce and fir).
  • When it comes to the large stretches of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba the mix of timberland is generally deciduous (aspen and balsam poplar) bush land.
  • In the northern sectors the hare occupies evergreen and mixed forests in any stages of development but forests that are in their early development harbour the best results.
  • British Columbia’s young developing Lodgepole pine stands makes for prime snowshoe hare terrain.

The height of the underbrush and the depth of snow will ultimately determine the suitableness of winter browse for the snowshoe. In areas of deep snowfall 6-8 ft (1.8 to 2.4 m) tall young trees with thin stems are needed for forage.

When the quantity of available forage becomes limited a Snowshoe may travel up to 5 miles (8 km) to obtain a more substantial food source.  The average home range of a snowshoe hare is approximately 14.8 – 24.7 acres (6 - 10 ha.) in size and the size of that territory is primarily dependant on the structure and availability of vegetation. Within its territory the hare has a complex system of trails that zigzags across its range. These trails will be well travelled by the hare and used by other species, like squirrels, porcupines, and skunks. The destinations and starting points will be either a foraging area or a place of rest. The main routes will be maintained in both the summer and winter time by the hare as it chews of stems and leaves from the trail. This trimming serves a secondary purpose in that it maintains an escape route from predators when required. 

Snowshoe Hare Range Map of Canada

Snowshoe Hare Range Map of Canda

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Description of Snowshoe Hare:

 Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare

 
Photo from: Denali National Park and Reserve - Flickr 

The snowshoe is a good fit to its environment, Environmental adaptations for this species includes generously furred rear feet and all four of its long toes on all four feet are capable of extending the width of their surface area in order to allow it to travel on top of the snow. In order to help insulate itself from the snow the bottom of its feet are completely covered with fur.

This hare seasonally changes its camouflage fur colouring from grey-brown in the summer to white in midwinter. The coat is composed of three layers: an inner layer of short fine silky slate-grey fur; a medium length coat of taller, buff-tipped hairs; and finally its long coarser outer hairs. This hares’ change in colour is brought on by the seasonal changes in daylight that occurs in August or September and again in March or April. This change in the light spectrum will bring on a gradual shedding and replacement of the outer guard hairs twice yearly that can take up to ten weeks to occur.

It is commonplace for its hind feet to remain white throughout the years and on a local basis (southwestern British Columbia) where snow is infrequent, the snowshoe will retain its brownish throughout the year. 

The ears of the Lepus family contain lots of veins that are used to maintain its body temperature. Because of the snowshoes colder living conditions, the requirement for large ears is diminished. So evolution gave them smaller fur covered ears than most hares’

Following the trait of leporids the female snowshoe hare is generally slightly larger than a male. Adult snowshoe hares will have a weight range of 2.6 – 4.9 lbs (1.2 – 2.2 kg) with it attaining its greatest weight in the fall. The average weight is 2.9 lbs. (1.3kg) for a buck and 3.3 lbs. (1.5kg) for a doe. It will range 16 – 20 in. (40 – 50.8 cm) in length.

Hares do not hibernate, remain active all year round and are most active during the periods at dusk and dawn. Climatic conditions like rain, snow, or wind can reduce the hares’ daily routine and cause it to hide a lot. Daytime routines find it resting quietly under a bush, stump, or log. It sleeps intermittently with its eyes open. It is said that a rabbit/hare can detect movement even while sleeping. In addition to dozing it will groom itself but it is always alert to danger.  

When danger presents itself, it may remain completely still and quiet but it is more likely to slip away before it is detected. Once it feels that it has been detected it will normally run but hares that are younger than two weeks and cannot move as quickly as an adult will likely remain stationary. The hare differs from a rabbit in this defensive strategy. A rabbit will run and hide in cover but a hare will run to flee from a predator. They are quite capable of traveling 28 mph (45 km/hr) with leaps and bounds of 9.8 ft (3 m) at a time. With this difference in mind evolution gave the hare a larger heart than a rabbit. 

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Snowshoe Hare:

This hare can at times be observed foraging in groups. It is hard to give a detailed account of this hares’ diet because of its huge geographic range, varied local diet may differ from territory to territory and kind of forest that it occupies.

During the summer this hare will browse on different herbaceous plants, including plants like vetch, fern, strawberry, fireweed, lupine, bluebell, some grasses and leaves of low lying shrubs.

When the winter months come around green vegetation is tough to get so it will alter its diet by eating small twigs, the bark of coniferous and deciduous trees, and buds from flowers and plants. 

As layers of snow build up on the ground the hare will stand on its hind legs, support itself up with its front legs and reach up to 17.8 in. (45 cm) from the ground to clip twigs and branches from shrubs and low lying trees. As the snow builds, they can clip further up the tree or shrub. When population densities of this hare are high, it is not uncommon for this hare to kill some of these young trees and shrubs by pulling rings of bark from the plant.

Plant matter is not high in protein content and in order to supplement its diet and obtain protein. The hare will consume dead animals like mice, voles and other leporids. It may also visit the carcass of a larger animal or steal the bait meat from traps on trap lines. 

Rabbits and hares including the Snowshoe hare produces two types of feces one of which is consumed.

  • The first is a hard round feces or pellet that you are use to seeing when hunting for rabbits. 
  • The second is a soft smelly grape-like pellet that is covered in a thin layer of mucus and is produced in a pouch at the beginning of its large intestine and is called the Cecum. In herbivores, the Cecum stores food material for bacteria to break down cellulose fibres. These pellets are rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins, water, and bacteria and are re-consumed by the rabbit right after the rabbit passes it. This is done in order to prevent breaking the outer coats of the grains of these pellets. They are not chewed, they are simply swallowed. This process avoids the loss of nutrients and enables the fermentation of the food to continue.

Breeding and Reproduction of Snowshoe Hare:

The mating period for this hare begins in late December to January and ends in July or August. This time period will vary according to its latitude, location, growth of new vegetation and weather conditions. To give you an idea the peak in Ontario is in May but in Newfoundland the peak arrives in June.

The Mating Dance

The hare goes through a unique mating dance when going through the selection process. The buck (male) initiates the ritual by approaching the doe (female). The female may face the buck and fend off his advances with a boxing match of her front paws. Not put off by the does’ rejection, the buck continues to run or chase the doe. She may run, continue her boxing match or jump vertically in the air while he dashes under her in what looks like a game of hopscotch. At times, you may see both the male and female jumping vertically at the same time. I personally don’t know if this is a ritual or simply a process of wearing down the doe. In the end, the female will stand and allow the buck to mount her and complete the mating process.

Female hares generally breed for her first time the spring following her birth. The mating season starts with the fore-mentioned mating dance in mid-March. The doe will be receptive to males for about 24 hours during which time the bucks compete for does, and does may mate with several males. Paired hares will stay together while they feed and couple that with periods of mating activity. The act of mating stimulates ovulation in the female hare and she will become receptive again the day following the birth of each litter produced. Juvenile female hares generally don’t breed in the year that they are conceived. When it does occur it has only been recorded with females from the years’ first litter and only in years that follows a low point in the hares’ population cycle.

For this leporid its gestation time period is 35 to 40 days with an average of 37 days. The first litters of the year arrive in mid-April to May and the female is capable of producing up to four litters of 3 to 8 young annually. Again factors like latitude, elevation, climate, foraging material, and population cycles will dictate the size of the litter.

Examples are:

  • Deep snow will make more upper-branch forage available during the winter months. This has a positive impact in that there is more nutritional feed for potential breeding adults. The end result is that litters in these northern snow bound ranges have larger litters than those in the southern less snowed regions.
  • In Newfoundland does will produce litters of 2.9 – 3.5 kits, but Alberta females produce litters of 2.7 to 3.3 kits. 
  • When looking at the effects of population cycles it was recorded that the average number of Alberta hare litters per year was 3 just after a hares’ population peak but increased to 4 just after a population low.

The seasons’ first litter is normally the smallest litter with only three to four young. The second litter of the season is quite often the largest litter with four to seven kits.

Hare newborns are born differently than rabbits in that they are fully furred, open-eyed, and are capable of hopping almost right away when they are born. Rabbits are born hairless, blind and helpless.

Newborns may leave the natal nest within 24 hours for short times following their birth. During the day, offspring remain together close to each other and the nest. They will gather once a day normally in the evening in order to nurse with their mother. With the exception of the season’s last litter, the young will be weaned from its mother in 25 to 28 days. The last litter may continue to nurse for two months or longer.

Newborns enter the animal kingdom at 1.6 - 2.6 oz. (45 - 75 g) at birth. They will increase their weight by 1 lb. (450 g) within a month and by three to four weeks of age they are self-sufficient. By their fifth month they will reach the average adult weight of 3 lb. (1.4 kg).

Status of Snowshoe Hare in Canada

The Snowshoe Hare is listed as a species of least concern (2008) on the Red list.

The Snowshoe Hare is considered one of the most significant small game animals in Canada. For Aboriginals and the people of Newfoundland its meat fills their freezers. However non-Aboriginal people in the Prairie Provinces are resistant to consuming hare meat. This resistance seems to come from the idea that the hare has a mysterious disease that contributes to their cyclic decline. 

The Snowshoe Hare is key species in the boreal forest and supports the environment for predators by being one of their food sources. Predator populations tend to follow the 8-11-year cycle (referred to as a 10 year cycle) that the snowshoe hare has. This cycling pattern in Canadian forests has an effect on their predators that is unlike anything else and influential. We can only surmise how changes in habitat and climate will affect it.

Besides being a source of food for predators like red foxes, coyotes, mink, Great Horned Owl, and Northern Goshawk. It needs to be noted that this hare is the main food source of Lynx and it is the Lynx that is highly dependant on the survival of this species. Snowshoe hares less than two weeks of age fall victim to red squirrels and ground squirrels. The survival rate is somewhere between 1% and 40% for it to survive in a given year. This rate changes with its 10-year population cycle. This hare is capable of living to six years of age but those chances are slim as they will have a “lucky rabbits foot” (I couldn’t resist that one) if they survive their second summer. 

Because of the Snowshoe Hares’ foraging strategy of consuming vegetation. It is prone to ingesting parasites like ticks, lice, tapeworms, and lung worms. It also suffers from many viral and bacterial diseases.

Taenia pisiformis and Taenia serialis are two common tapeworms found in the snowshoe hare can be spread to your hunting dog if they are fed uncooked meat and / or organs from an contaminated hare. These tapeworms do not infect people.

The Snowshoe Hare Virus is not fatal to humans and has been discovered in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Human infections of this disease have occurred in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. When this disease occurs in humans takes the form of an infection and inflammation of the brain (meningitis and encephalitis).

Tularemia, is a disease that can infect a snowshoe and is transferable to humans. On rare occurrences it can cause human mortality and is best avoided by thoroughly cooking all meat and by making sure that you don’t clean or process hares if you have cuts or abrasions on your hands. 

Arctic Hare - Lepus arcticus

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Arctic Hare:

Portions of Labrador and Newfoundland south of the 60th parallel have Arctic Hares and most of the territories of NWT, Nunavut, Quebec’s Nunavik, and Labrador north of the 60th parallel also have arctic hares.

They get their name Arctic Hare because they occupy the harsh tundra environment north of the tree line and may also be referred to as a Polar Rabbit. They will avoid marshlands and preference is given to dry areas of the tundra and mountainous regions where there is enough cover for plants to grow and the snow does not get too deep. Well suited to the cold and snowy environment found in the tundra, plateaus and treeless coasts of this region, the 

Polar hare may be found at altitudes between 0 (sea level) and 2953 ft. (900 m.)

There is not much sunlight in the winter and the temperature can drop to -40° F (-40° C). However, in the winter their white warm winter coat acts like camouflage against the snow and makes them less susceptible to predation.

Arctic Hare Range Map of Canada

Arctic Hare Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Description of Arctic Hare:

 Arctic Hare

arctic hare

Photo From: Jodie Wilson - Flickr

The Arctic hare is one of the largest living members of the hare or rabbit family. This hare has a body length of 17 to 28 in (43 to 70 cm.) long and add to that its tail length of 1.8 – 3.9 in. (4.5–10 cm). It will typically weigh some where between 6 - 12 lb. (2.5–5.5 kg) although large adults can weigh up to 15 lb. (7 kg.).

Evolutionary development has given this mammal a compact body and appendages. This lowers it surface area to volume ratio in order to conserve body heat. These adaptations include shorter ears, limbs, a small nose, 20% of its body is made up of fat, and it sports a thick coat of fur.

Evolution also gave these mammals’ long claws for digging up plants in the snow or digging a snow burrow to keep warm or sleep. When it flees it gets up on its hind legs and runs at speeds up to 40 mph (60 kph) much like a kangaroo does.

The Arctic Hare has a great sense of smell as it can detect food that is buried under the ice and snow and they consume anything that is leafy and consume bark, roots and willow. To help this foraging process its incisors (front teeth) are longer and straighter than what most hares possess. It uses these incisors to pull plants out from between narrow openings in rocks.

The colour of the Arctic hares’ body varies according to the season and the climate of its’ local. In southern locals like Newfoundland and Labrador it is brown or grey in colour in the summer. However, in more northern arctic latitudes it will retain its white colouring all year. This colour adaptation allows it to maximize its camouflage against predators. Even when white the bottoms of its feet are black and the tips of ears have a black strip.

Like other hares it is nocturnal and does not hibernate. I am not sure if it is a social aspect of the species or a survival strategy but it tends to travel in groups of other hares of the same species. These feeding herds can consist of 10-60 hares and groups of up to 300 have been observed in northernmost sections of their range. Individuals within the herd stay close to other but not enough for huddling for warmth.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Arctic Hare:

The Arctic Hare will consume food that is of both plant and animal origin. Foraging mainly on woody plant material and willow, 95% of its diet is saxifrage, crowberry, dryas, and dwarf willow. However, it will include lichen, moss, flowers, twigs, roots, leaves, mountain sorrel, and seaweed in its diet. 

Wintertime forage of woody plants, mosses, and lichens are obtained by digging in the snow. Forage in the summer time is easier to come by and buds, berries, leaves, roots, and bark will be added to the menu.

In order to obtain more protein in their diet they will periodically consume meat. 

Water is obtained through snow consumption.

Breeding and Reproduction of Arctic Hare:

The Arctic hare breeds in the months of April to May. Hares’ in the northern sections of their range tend to breed in the latter time period than those in the southern portions. At this time the herds of Arctic hares break up into breeding pairs. The pair will go through the mating dance ritual and set up a territory in which they will mate. Males may service more than one female during this period.

The Mating Dance

The hare goes through a unique mating dance when going through the selection process. The buck (male) initiates the ritual by approaching the doe (female). The female may face the buck and fend off his advances with a boxing match of her front paws. Not put off by the does’ rejection, the buck continues to run or chase the doe. She may run, continue her boxing match or jump vertically in the air while he dashes under her in what looks like a game of hopscotch. At times, you may see both the male and female jumping vertically at the same time. I personally don’t know if this is a ritual or simply a process of wearing down the doe. In the end, the female will stand and allow the buck to mount her and complete the mating process.

The female constructs a maternal form in the ground that is usually located behind rocks or behind a bush. She then lines the form with grass followed up by fur from her belly.

The doe will conceive one litter of 2-8 (average is 5) young (called leverets) in late May through July of each year. The leverets are born with fur, eyes open, are able to hop within minutes of birth and will weigh about 3.7 oz. (105 g.) at birth and the doe remains near the young for the first few days. For the balance of the summer she returns about every 18 – 19 hours to nurse them. Once the young are 2-3 weeks old they begin to leave the nest and will create their own forms, but stay within the mother’s territory for nursing needs until they are capable of surviving by themselves

The leverets are weaned by the time they are 8-9 weeks old (August). They grow fast and by the time September rolls around it is almost impossible to tell them apart from their parents. Sexual maturity is reached in six months but they will wait till next year to breed.

Like their parents, leverets remain still and hide in rocks or vegetation when predators like wolves, lynx and Arctic fox are detected.

There is not much information regarding the life expectancy of the Arctic hare but some unreliable evidence suggests that a wild Arctic Hare may live three to five years.

Status of Arctic Hare in Canada

The Arctic Hare is listed as a species of least concern (2008) on the Red list.

This species is near the bottom of the food chain and it is mainly the younger hares that fall prey to mammals like the Artic Wolf, Arctic Fox, Red Fox, Canada Lynx, and ermines. Let’s not forget that birds of prey like the Snowy Owl, Rough-legged hawk and Peregrine falcon and feed it to their young.

It has been noted on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut that Gyrfalcons will carry a hare back to their nest. They will cut the hare in half and after consuming it. The falcon will use the hares’ bones and feet to build their nests with.

For the Aboriginal Peoples this hare is hunted for not only as a food source but as a source of fur with which they can make clothing.

When you consider the role that this species has in ecology of mammals and man alike it is not surprising to find out that predation is the main cause of mortality for the Arctic Hare.

A hare does not fall victim to diseases very often and there are four groups of parasites have been known to use Arctic hares as a host: single celled cells, round worms, lice, and fleas. 

White-tailed Jack Rabbit - Lepus townsendii

Range - Distribution and Habitat of White-tailed Jackrabbit:

The White-tailed Jack Rabbit has a fairly big range through out North America but here in Canada its is only found in the southern portions of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, southwestern Manitoba and touches on the southwestern corner of Ontario. These Canadian provinces seem to constitute the northern most boundary of its range.

Note:

The White-tailed Jack Rabbit once was the sole rabbit occupant of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of southern British Columbia but encroachment from the Mountain Cottontail seems to be taking over those ranges from the White-tailed Jack.

This rabbit can be found from elevations that start at 98.5 ft (30 m) right on up to elevations of 14170 ft. (4319 m).

As far as habitat types: it can be found in open grasslands where the landscape is dominated by grasses and interspersed with sedges, and rushes. It can also be found at higher altitudes where the primary vegetation is made up of shrubs but they must also include grasses and herbs.  

An ideal and preferred 

habitat would consist of grass with shrubs scattered between sagebrush. In mountainous forest ranges this hare has a liking for patches of aspen and fir.

This hare has a home range of about 4.9 – 10.8 m² (12.5 - 28.25 km²) in size and like the Snowshoe Hare the White-tailed Jackrabbit goes through cyclic fluctuations in populations.

White-Tailed Jackrabbit Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Description of White-tailed Jackrabbit:

 White-tailed Jackrabbit

Whitetailed Jack Rabbit

 Photo From: USFWS - Flickr

Early settlers noted the exceptionally long ears of this species and noted how much it looked like a donkey. For that reason they referenced the White-tailed Jackrabbit as the "jackass rabbit". I wonder if in the writings of Mark Twain his “Jackass Rabbit” is the same one. The Jackass rabbit’s name latter became simply Jackrabbit but it may also be called the Prairie Hare or White Jack.

The naming of this species “White-tailed jackrabbit” causes confusion in that it isn't really a rabbit but it is a hare. The defining factor in determining whether it is a hare or a rabbit lies in the how their young are born. Hare newborns are born differently than rabbits in that they are fully furred, open-eyed, and are capable of hopping almost right away when they are born. Rabbits are born hairless, blind and helpless.

Typically the female is larger than the male. Males will range in length 22.2 – 24.3 inches (56.5-61.8 cm) with an average of 23.2 inches (58.9 cm). Weights for females range 22.6 – 25.7 ins. (57.5-65.5 cm) in length and average 24 inches (61.2 cm). These lengths include its short 3 – 4 inch (7.6 – 10 cm.) tail. Corresponding weights range 5.7 – 9.5 lbs. (2,600-4,300 g.) for males with an average weight of 7.5 lbs. (3.400 g.) while females’ range 5.5 - 9.5 lbs. (2,500-4,300 g) and average 7.9 lbs. (3.600 gm.).

General appearance of this hare is characterized by its large ears, large feet, and an overall large body.

Its ears that are 3.4 to 4.4 inches (10 – 11.3 cm.) in length are an important evolutional development as they are used not only to improve it ability to hear but to also regulate its body temperature. The ears are wide and contain lots of blood vessels. This large size of the ears provides a large surface area. In hot weather the hare retreats out of the sun and widens the blood vessels that are located in the outer part of its ears. Blood flow through the ears is increased and it acts like the radiator in your car to cool the hare. This process is called vasodilation and has the added benefit of conserving body fluids (like a need for water) by not having to panting like a dog or sweat like we do.

The hind foot of this hare is 5.7 to 6.5 inches (14.5 – 16.5 cm) in length. It has the ability of running 35 to 50 mph (56 to 80 kph) and at that speed it will travel 6 to 10 ft (2–3 m) in a single bound. In order to view its purser better it has learned to jump 3 to 4 feet (.91 – 1.2 m) high as it bounds. In the unfortunate case when it is caught by a predator, it will use these hind legs to kick, claw, and try to fight off its attacker.

The White-tailed Jackrabbit receives its name from the fact that it sports a yearlong white tail that has a dark stripe on top of its tail. Again on a year round basis, the outside of its ears are whitish-grey, has a dark brown colour on the inside of the ears, and black on the very tip.

This hare moults twice a year. Its summer coat has an upper body that can be a greyish brown colour to a brown with a dark brown colour. The flanks or sides of its body will lighten to a greyish brown colour and finally its belly will be grey to white. The tops of its feet and legs can be anywhere from a white to greyish brown colour.

In regions with regular snowfalls, the winter coat across its back, sides, under belly and feet maybe almost all white. Depending on local and climate there is the bit of brown hue in that white or as in the case of southern hares of this species it may not change colour at all.

Like all hares it does not hibernate in the winter months and is active all year long. It is considered to be crepuscular in that most of its foraging activity is concentrated about twilight hours (early morning and early evening). It will continue to feed through the night particularly if there is a full moon. During the day it will hide and rest in a form that will be located in tall grass, under a shrub, or in a rock crevasse.

For the White-tailed Jackrabbit the form is simply a cup shaped depression that is dug in soft soil. The dimensions of the form will be about 7.9 in. (20 cm) deep, 18 to 24 inches (46 – 61 cm) long and 7.9 to 11.8 in (20 to 30 cm) wide.

Jackrabbits are known to be loners with most of their contact with others of the same species occurring during the breeding season. There are occasions when they do group together while feeding but my opinion is that it is the availability of food that is causes this to happen. 

Diet and Foraging Strategy of White-tailed Jackrabbit:

The White-tailed Jackrabbit is a herbivore that during the spring and summer months will eat green grasses, flowering plants (forbs) and agricultural crops. Common examples are wheat, alfalfa, dandelion, and blue gramma grass.

When winter arrives it will change its diet and eat the buds, twigs, and bark of small trees and shrubs from their lower extremities.

Rabbits and hares including the Snowshoe hare produces two types of feces one of which is consumed.

  • The first is a hard round feces or pellet that you are use to seeing when hunting for rabbits. 
  • The second is a soft smelly grape-like pellet that is covered in a thin layer of mucus and is produced in a pouch at the beginning of its large intestine and is called the Cecum. In herbivores, the Cecum stores food material for bacteria to break down cellulose fibres. These pellets are rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins, water, and bacteria and are re-consumed by the rabbit right after the rabbit passes it. This is done in order to prevent breaking the outer coats of the grains of these pellets. They are not chewed, they are simply swallowed. This process avoids the loss of nutrients and enables the fermentation of the food to continue.

Breeding and Reproduction of White-tailed Jackrabbit:

The White-tailed Jackrabbit here in its northern range breeds in the months of May-early July. The solidarity nature of the this hare is given u at this time as males compete for the affection of females and bucks and does pair off into breeding pairs. The like other members of the leporid family paired hares will go through the mating dance ritual and set up a territory in which they will mate. Males may service more than one female during this period and the act of mating causes the doe to ovulate.

The Mating Dance

The hare goes through a unique mating dance when going through the selection process. The buck (male) initiates the ritual by approaching the doe (female). The female may face the buck and fend off his advances with a boxing match of her front paws. Not put off by the does’ rejection, the buck continues to run or chase the doe. She may run, continue her boxing match or jump vertically in the air while he dashes under her in what looks like a game of hopscotch. At times, you may see both the male and female jumping vertically at the same time. I personally don’t know if this is a ritual or simply a process of wearing down the doe. In the end, the female will stand and allow the buck to mount her and complete the mating process.

The male does not participate in the rearing of the young. From this point on, the doe must to raise the leverets by herself. She will undergo a gestation period that is 36–43 days long and during this period she will construct a maternal form in which the young will be born. This nest is simply a dug out form under dense cover which she will line with dried vegetation follow by her own fur from her underbelly.

This species is capable of 1-4 litters per year but here in Canada it is likely that the doe will only produce one and maybe two litters. Each litter produced can contain 1-11 leverets but a typical nest will consist of 4-5 young. 

Hares are precocial meaning that the young are born in an advanced state of development and are capable of feeding themselves almost immediately. Newborns weigh about 3.5 oz. (100 g.), their eyes are open, and they are fully furred. Leverets are able to hop about within minutes after birth and they will begin to move around and forage on their own at about two weeks of age.

The doe nurses her young for one month and at the end of that time the young are weaned. It is at only 2 months of age that the youngsters are independent.

These juvenile Jackrabbits are sexually mature at about seven months of age but will wait till next years breeding season in order to participate. 

Status of White-tailed Jackrabbit in Canada

The White-tailed Jackrabbit Hare is listed as a species of least concern (2008) on the Red list.

We have to remind ourselves that this species is near the bottom of the food chain and its role in ecology is to be a source of food for larger mammals. Younger hares and the odd adult Jackrabbit make a good meal for predatory mammals like the Red Fox, Grey fox, coyote, bobcat, American badger, foxes, and snakes. Although for the cougar or grey wolf it is just a snack.

Let’s not forget that birds of prey eagles, hawks, and owls like juvenile hares and feed them to their young. Ferruginous hawks, Great Horned Owls and Golden eagles are probably the only birds of pray that are capable of taking away an adult Jackrabbit.

The White-tailed Jackrabbit shares some grassland with the pronghorn and just like the Pronghorn evolution has developed its eyesight and hearing. It also has been given the gifts of camouflage and speed to elude potential predators.  

Their primary defence is to elude detection by crouching with ears laid back in vegetative cover and let their natural colour do its work of concealing it. At times they opt to slowly slink away, but if they believe that they have been spotted they will use their speed to bound away.

Humans are always listed as a source of causing population decline but in this case sport hunting only takes a fraction of what natural predation does.

References

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_hare
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_cottontail
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_cottontail
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pika
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowshoe_hare
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_pika
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_jackrabbit
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_of_Canada
  • http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/rabbit/
  • http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/pika/
  • http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/e/eastern-cottontail-rabbit/
  • http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41299/0
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/rabbits-rodents/mountain-cottontail.aspx
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/rabbits-rodents/pika.aspx
  • http://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=AMAEB01060
  • https://www.fws.gov/refuge/National_Bison_Range/Wildlife_and_Habitat/mountain_cottontail.html
  • http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=163
  • http://wildpro.twycrosszoo.org/S/0MLagomorph/Leporidae/Sylvilagus/Sylvilagus_nuttallii.htm
  • http://naturalhistory.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=133
  • http://naturalhistory.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=135
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/snowshoe-hare.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/
  • http://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/encyclopedias/fauna/mammals/snowshoe-hare.html
  • http://fr.cwhc-rcsf.ca/wildlife_health_topics/arbovirus/arbossh.php
  • http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1035&context=zoonoticspub
  • http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/edu/ViewLoitLo.do;jsessionid=C1ECBB12E0665C1594067243C1635273?method=preview&lang=EN&id=13918
  • http://creationwiki.org/Arctic_hare
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/rabbits-rodents/White-tailed-jack-rabbit.aspx
  • http://fwp.mt.gov/mtoutdoors/HTML/articles/portraits/jackrabbit.htm#.WOAwFPnyuUk
  • http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/whitetailedjackrabbit.html
  • https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/jackrabbit.htm
  • http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=1169

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Find the best places to hunt Foxes in Canada and discover the Foxes' Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Provinces with Fox Hunting

Province / Territory

Species

Season

Nunavut

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Season Available 

Northwest Territories

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

 

Yukon

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

 

British Columbia

Red Fox

 

Alberta

Red Fox

Swift Fox

Resident

Saskatchewan

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Swift Fox

 

Manitoba

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Grey Fox

Trapping Only 

Ontario

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Grey Fox

Arctic Fox

Red Fox 

Quebec

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

 Red Fox

New Brunswick

Red Fox

 

Nova Scotia

Red Fox

 

Prince Edward Island

Red Fox

Season Available 

Newfoundland

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Arctic Fox -Vulpes lagopus

   

Summer Coat

Winter Coat

Arctic Fox in summer Arctic Fox in Winter
 Photo By Drew Avery - Flickr Arctic Fox - Eric Kilby - Flickr 

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox Range Map of Canada

Arctic Fox Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

The Arctic fox is sometimes referred to as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox. It is a small fox that is native and commonplace to Canada’s Arctic tundra from the northern tip of Ellesmere Island to the southern tip of James Bay.   

Despite the fact that this mammal lives in a bleak landscape that is full of rocks: and without much vegetation. The Arctic fox populations are in the hundred thousands. The Arctic fox is particularly well adapted to the very cold temperatures of their range, and have secured a position on the tundra is not an easy place to live.

The summer time finds the Arctic Fox living in family groups at the forest edges of the tundra. These groups generally consist of a male, one or two females and their offspring. If there is a second female she does not breed with the male, she is one from last years litter, and is there to help care for this years litter. 

In the winter time, the arctic fox moves around a lot looking for food. It can found on the ice pack at this time of year where its white coat serves as a disguise. If it needs a den now, it will make it in a snow bank.

Description of Arctic Fox:

The Arctic fox has adapted itself for life in one of earth’s sub-zero extremes. With several layers of dense fur, its fur provides outstanding insulation and will not feel the cold until temperatures drop to minus 70 deg C.

The fox has a countercurrent heat exchange system in its paws, where heat from blood in the arteries supplying its paws is transferred to blood returning to the body's core in veins that lie close to these arteries. This helps the fox to maintain a lower temperature in its paws than the core temperature of its body during freezing cold conditions.

In order to have a low surface area to volume ratio, Evolution for this mammal gave it a compact body shape, a short nose, short legs, and short, thick ears. With less of a surface area, less heat escapes from its body in the freezing cold temperatures of the Arctic.

The Arctic foxes is active all year round and does not hibernate during the winter months. They will try to increase their body weight by 50% by building up their fat reserves in the fall of the year. The increased fat gives the fox better insulation during the winter and provides a supply of energy for when food is scarce. There is fur on the underside of its paws in order to help insulate it from the ice and snow and it has a long bushy tail.

The Arctic fox moults twice a year, and can be a dark gray to brown to blue-brown to grey-brown colour in the summer. In the winter, it is may be white or a steely bluish-gray.

The Arctic fox has such acute auditory perception, it can pin point the location of a small animal is moving under the snow. Once the prey has been located, it will jump on it and catch its victim while punching a hole in the snow cover

  • The life expectancy of the Arctic fox in the wild is 3 to 6 years of age.
  • This fox will weigh from 6.5 to 21 lbs (2.9 - 95kg) and female foxes are generally smaller than males.
  • It has a body length that ranges from 18 to 27 in. (46 - 68cm).
  • Its dental formula is: 3.1.4.2 / 3.1.4.3 U 3.1.4.2 - L 3.1.4.3.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Arctic Fox:

The diet of this fox is primarily one of lemmings during the summer. However, in the winter its diet will move towards that of carrion. They are also good scavengers and depending upon the time of year and availability of prey in the area. Arctic hares, ground squirrels, fish, voles, ringed seal pups, some seabirds along with waterfowl and their eggs are included in that list.

In addition to the carrion that it eats, berries, seaweed, insects, and other small invertebrates are also food sources.

The summer time is the time for the Arctic fox to raise its young and it is during this time that this fox hunts the most. With endless daylight on the tundra it will forage 10 to 15 times a night from 4 in the afternoon till 10 or 11 the next morning. It will cover 2.5 to 5.0 Km2 and bring back 3-8 lemmings per hunting trip.

The style of hunting for lemmings varies by the cover that the lemmings are using. Where lemming nests are located in soft mounds of peat the Fox will dig them from their nests. Out on the open tundra where the vegetation is low and sporadic the fox catches a moving lemming with a quick dash and a pounce.

In areas where ground squirrels and voles are plentiful this fox will make them its important source of food. The same when it comes to foxes that live close to a major seabird colony. Here foxes raid the nests of duck, geese, and shorebirds for eggs, flightless young and even adult birds some of which they will store for food in winter. Arctic foxes will sometimes try to take on a Sandhill Crane or goose, but they are rarely successful against such large bird.

Arctic foxes inhabiting coastal areas are likely to be found hunting for small marine animals, fish, and flesh of dead animals along the shorelines.

When the winter arrives, this fox changes its hunting tactics and strategy. Coastal Foxes will venture onto the sea ice, where they frequently follow polar bears and scavenge a bears’ seal kill or search for a seal den from which it can steal a pup.  Carrion is usually obtained by trailing and tracking arctic wolves or polar bears in order to feast on their scraps and arctic foxes distributed themselves to the Arctic’s remotest islands by following the bears across the frozen ice pack.

Despite all these resourceful feeding techniques, the overall population of the Arctic Fox is still very dependant on the lemming. Populations of lemmings go on a 3 to 5 year cycle in North America. When lemming populations are high the survival rate of kits in a fox litter is high and the Arctic Fox population soars. However, when lemming populations drop, the survival rate of fox litters also plummets causing a decline in Arctic Fox numbers. Naturally, these swings in populations will be more dramatic the more the fox is dependant upon the lemming for a food source.

Breeding and Reproduction of Arctic Fox:

Arctic Fox 

Arctic Fox with dinner
Photo By Grid Arendal - Flickr

The Arctic Foxes breeding season is usually in April or May. Courtship of the pair is lengthy and frisky. This playful period will involve much chasing and play-fighting. The female has a gestation period of 51 - 57 days and litters of 5 to 8 pups are born in Late May to early June.

Arctic foxes usually pair for life, and both parents help to rear the pups starting with finding, cleaning out, and possibly digging a new den entrance for raising their young.

Fox dens are quite often built out of traditional previous sites, some of which are 300 years old. With many years in the making it is not uncommon for the den to have as many as 100 entrances, have an intricate system of tunnels that covers 1,200 yd² (1,000 m2).

The criteria for their den, is that it must be in frost-free ground and have good drainage. With that criteria in mind, you will find the dens on raised ground, build along the side or top of an esker, or on the bank of a lake or river with dry, sandy, compactable soil.

The male fox guard the den and begin to hunt for his mate before she gives birth to her whelps. He will then hunt for the family until she has weaned the pups. Once the pups are weaned the pair will collectively hunt for the family.

The pups or whelps come into this world blind, helpless, covered with fur, and weigh about 2 oz. (57 g.). The pups will be weaned in 5 to 6 weeks and the pups will begin to exit the den in 14 to 15 weeks from birth. Dispersal of the fox pups occurs at about 6 months of age.

The rearing of the young is a busy time for the adults in that not only do they have to feed themselves, but, they have also feed a large family that is physically developing quickly. The pair provides 30 lemmings a day for the litter at first; but by the time the pups are ready to leave the den, the pair has to supply 100 lemmings a day. The family as a whole will consume 3,500 to 4,000 lemmings in total during the rearing process.

Status of Arctic Fox in Canada

Red List listed as Least Concern – June 2014.

There are few natural predators of adult Arctic Foxes. Wolves will eat an arctic fox if they can catch it or find it caught in a trap. Red foxes will compete for den sites and hunting territories where ever their ranges overlap with the Arctic Fox. Golden Eagles will pluck young pups from the den site, and grizzly bears along with wolves are able to dig pups and or adult foxes from their den. 

There are four major diseases that affect the Arctic fox. Canine Rabies, Canine Distemper, Canine Parvovirus, and Canine Adenovirus. It is known that the fox is the main host and carrier of the arctic rabies virus. Two of these diseases can be transmitted to humans and the real issue is that contracted foxes become weak and unable to breed. This in turn leads to lower populations of arctic fox. 

In Canada trapping of the Arctic Fox for its pelt provides for an important source of income to northern native people and northern residents alike. With pelts prices at $110 for a single 36 inch pelt, it is easy to see how harvesting the arctic fox can provide a lucrative living to trappers.

There are management tools in place to control the dates of trapping season(s) but, there are no limits  on the number of foxes that may be harvested nor the location of trapping areas.

When all the facts are considered and despite the fore mentioned issues, the population density of the lemming is the ultimate controlling factor for the Arctic Fox.

Red Fox - Vulpes vulpes

 Red Fox Melanistic  Cross Fox
Red Fox  Metanistic Fox  Cross Fox 
 Photo By Robb Hannawacker - Flickr Photo By Bob Jenson - Flickr  Photo By DR. Robert Berdan

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Red Fox

Red Fox Range Map of Canada

 Red Fox Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca 

With a global territory that covers nearly 70 million km², the Red Fox has the largest range of any member of the dog family. Here in Canada it is distributed across the entire country, with the exception of the northern Arctic islands.

Sly like a fox really does describe this resourceful mammal. With an ability to find food and shelter in almost any natural or rural urban environment, it is right at home almost anywhere.

From the southern edge of Canada’s northern icy tundra to our border with the United States this fox inhabits almost every kind of habitat that you can think of. Scientists believe that there are more red foxes present in North America now than when the Europeans arrived in the 16th century. The supposition behind this belief lies in the fact that the pioneers created additional habitat for the fox by thinning the dense forests and killing many of the wolves that had kept fox numbers down.

A pair of red foxes may occupy a home range of 4 to 8 km2 around a centrally located den site. If the availability of prey becomes restrictive, the pair will hunt separately for the winter, but will meet back up in the late winter or early spring in time for mating season  

Description of Red Fox:

The Red fox is a small member of the canids (dog) family that has a sharp pointed face and ears, an agile and lightly built body. Most people picture a bushy tailed dog like mammal that has a beautiful long reddish-brown fur coat on its body and tail. White fur on it’s’ belly, chest, tail tip, cheeks and leg stocking. The tip of its nose is jet black and black fur runs down its legs and across the top of its ears.

What most don’t know is that not all members of the “Red Fox” species are actually red. There is a melanistic or black phase. This all black fox often has streaks of gray or white-tipped guard hairs that give it a silvery look and for that reason foxes with this streaking are often called a “silver fox”.

With the “cross fox” colour phase all the white markings that you normally expect to see in a Red Fox are missing. Most of those markings will be a black or brownish colour and will also include the shoulders and down its back. This colour phase is common throughout the Rocky Mountains.

It is not uncommon for kits of a litter to be of a different colour phase.

The size of this fox will vary according to sex and geographic local. In general, male foxes are slightly larger than females. And those of the species in the north portion of their range tend to be bigger than those in the south. An adult fox will weigh between 8 to 15 lbs (3.6 - 6.8 kg) and have a length of 35 – 44 ins. (90 - 112 cm,) including its tail that is 13 ¾ to 17 inches (35-43 cm) long. The life span of a wild red fox is 2-5 years of age.

The adapt senses of the Red Fox helps them a lot when foraging for food

  • The Red fox has excellent eyesight to detect the slightest movement of a rabbits’ ear thus giving give away its position.
  • A good sense of smell that is able to detect nests of young rabbits or birds eggs hidden in the long grass. 
  • This fox has acute hearing to pinpoint a rodent in the grass or snow and then jump on it.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Red Fox:

 Red Fox Kits Playing with Dinner

 Kits Playing with Dinner
Photo By Pat Gaines - Flickr 

Red Foxes hunt primarily during the night and early in the morning. They also have a poor reputation and have been labels as “chicken thieves”. It is a fact that they will raid a chicken coupe but they eat large numbers of crop-destroying small vermin and insects. This benefit outweighs the odd chicken lost.

This mammal has a diet that consists mostly of other small mammals. Voles, mice, lemmings, squirrels, hares and rabbits are the stables of their diet but they will also consume a wide range of other foods, including vegetation.

They have a seasonal diet where they consume small mammals in fall and winter and in the spring they will also target nesting waterfowl to dine on eggs and chicks of colonies of nesting seabirds. In the summer you may find them dining on insects and berries.


Other unexpected sources of food are lake trout that they catch by jumping from the shore onto schooling fish in shallow water. Seal pups, beaver, reptiles, fruits of all sorts, and garbage are also on that short list. They are known to cache surplus food for later consumption, but other animals often discover and beat them to it first.

Breeding and Reproduction of Red Fox:

Males are often referred to as Dog Foxes while females are called Vixens. The sexual organs of dogs and vixens kick into gear in December and a short 6 day estrous cycles of the Vixen occurs in December-January in the south, January-February in the central regions, and February-April in the northern territories. Males and females may mate with more than one individual during this time period, copulation lasts about 15-20 minutes, and implantation of the embryo to the uterus wall takes only 10 to 14 days and gestation lasts for 51-53 days.

Once the vixen is pregnant, the vixen and dog will establish a maternal den and line it with dry debris like grass or leaves. The object is to insulate the cubs from the earths’ moisture and cold; only the vixen and her soon to be young will reside in the den from now till the litter is about 2 weeks old. The dens are usually dug in the earth from an abandoned burrow of another mammal like that of a woodchuck. But they could also be made in an old cave, under a hollow log, under a building structure, or in the side of a sand bank. More than one access point to the den may be constructed to facilitate an escape route from danger. Dens often face south, provide a good overview of the landscape from the main entrance, and are located in dry, sandy soil. It is not uncommon for a pair of foxes to reuse an old den if it has been left undisturbed and a pair of foxes may establish a secondary den to which they will move the pups when / if they are threatened.  When searching for a den site, look on top of small knolls in a field, along a stream bank, a hedge, or a fence row.

Female foxes are very caring of their pups before their eyes are open and during this period they will not let the dog fox enter the maternal den. The dog starts to provide food for the vixen from the time she enters the den till about 2-3 weeks after the pups are born. In March or April, the pups are born blue eyed, blind, deaf, toothless, and have a dark brown fluffy fur.  The size of the litter size varies from 1-10 pups, but averages 5. The pups weigh 2.0 – 3.9 oz. (56 – 110 g) at birth, will measure 5.7 in. (14.5 cm.) in body length and have a 3.0 in. (7.5 cm) long tail. The pups will also have short legs; have a large head and a broad chest.

The fox pups are unable to maintain their internal core temperature for the first 2-3 weeks, for this reason the vixen must remain with them in the den. The pups begin to develop teeth at 3-4 days, open their eyes and develop ear canals at 13-14 days, at which point in time the male will relieve the female so she too may hunt. The colour of the pups’ fur changes at 3 weeks and the black eye streak appears now. At 4 weeks, the red and white patches on their face forms, the ears become erect, and their nose lengthens. The pups’ eyes will change from blue to amber around 4-5 weeks old.

The weaning process takes about one month. The process of weaning is one where the parents bring back prey to the cubs at the den entrance so that they can play with it, smell it, and learn to eat it.

For two months both parents hunt for themselves and feed the cubs at the den site. Thus training the pups, in the art of hunting by letting the pups stalk mice. The parents watch the pups practise hunting and when they are capable of feeding themselves. The pups are mature enough to leave the den site to hunt on their own.

At 8 weeks old, they develop their shiny guard hairs and by the time they are 3–4 months old the kits will be long-legged, narrow-chested and have developed their muscles. Adult proportions are achieved around 6–7 months and by 9-10 months old some vixens might reach sexual maturity and rear their first litter at one year of age.

If at any point the vixen dies before the kits are able to fend for themselves, the dog will takes over the role as their caregiver.

These new foxes will widely disperse in the fall to seek their own territory. These foxes will use thickets and heavy bush for bedding down and cover over their first winter. If they establish a territory and are successful in surviving their first winter the yearling foxes may pair up and breed the following spring.

If the hunting for prey becomes difficult, established pairs of foxes may separate over the winter, but they will rejoin again to mate and den up.

Status of Red Fox in Canada

The Red Fox is listed as a species of least concern (2016) on the Red List.

The pelt of species does not have as much value as the arctic fox. However the farming and hunting communities see this mammal as a pest and kill it in order to reduce the competition for livestock and wild game between themselves and the fox.

Natural predators of the Red Fox will come from mammals like the Bobcats, Lynx, Cougar, Wolves, coyotes, and dogs. There may also be some but rare occurrences of large owls and eagles taking young around den sites.

Encroachment of habitat from coyotes is a newer threat in that the coyotes through range expansion in the notable provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia are taking the habitat of the red fox.

Diseases that foxes in general contract are rabies, fox tapeworm, and mange. Human contact with rabies can be lethal if left untreated. Fox tapeworm is not a problem to humans but your hunting dog should be protected. Finally mange can be contracted by humans but it cannot last. You will simply develop a rash that lasts for a few weeks and remember that your pets are also susceptible to this virus.

Swift Fox - Vulpes velox

 Swift Fox

Swift Fox 
Photo By USFWS Mountain Prairie - Flickr 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Swift Fox

Swift Fox Range Map of Canada

Swift Fox Range Map of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca 

With the release of 942 foxes between the years of 1983 and 1997, the Swift Fox was reintroduced to its natural range along the Canadian – US border in Saskatchewan, and Alberta.  In 1999, 279 wild foxes were estimated to exist and the status of wild Canadian Swift Foxes was downlisted from "extirpated" to “endangered”.

Non-territorial in nature, this species of fox inhabits a home range of 32-34 km². It has a preference for areas that have a good view of landscapes that are scarcely covered with short and mixed grassland vegetation. Beneficial habitat can be found in large tracts of native grasslands of buffalo grass, bluestem, and wire grass that still exist in the Wood Mountain/Grasslands National Park Reserve of Saskatchewan/Alberta.

Dens favouring the Swift Foxes mobility on well-drained slopes and hilltops with good visibility are important for the swift fox population survival. These sites also require a nearby stable water source 

Description of Swift Fox:

With the ability to travel at speeds of 50-60 km/hr this quick fox is appropriately named the swift fox.

Mostly nocturnal, it comes out of its burrow after sunset during the summer and stays in its den during the day. Winter time is a different in that it will appear around noon during the highest temperatures of the winter day.

The swift fox is more dependent upon their den, which is usually underground and measures two to four meters long for shelter and predator avoidance, than most canids. This species of fox also has a low tolerance for windy conditions during all times of the year.

This fox is a light gray in colour and darkens to almost black as it runs from its shoulder, across it back and on down to the end of its tail.

The gray flanks or sides of its body are mingled with orange and yellow colour as the colour moves down the body to its legs which at this point will have no gray. Its neck, chest and belly will be a pale yellow or white colour.

The head of this little guy is triangular in shape. Its’ ears are rather large for its size and its muzzle contains a black hue. Add whitish coloured cheeks, white around the eyes, and a white throat.

Like most members of the animal kingdom, males are slightly larger than females. A typical height for the species is 11.8 in. (30cm), an overall length of 31 in. (79cm) from head to tail and a weight of 4.4 – 6.6 lbs. (2-3 kg.).

The life expectancy for a wild swift fox is 3 to 6 years of age.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Swift Fox:

Like most members of the dog family, the swift foxes’ diet is made up of plant material, insects and mammals.

Its diet consists of: rabbits, mice, groundhogs, ground squirrels, birds, insects, amphibians and lizards. Samples of scat collected in Alberta showed that its diet consisted of 64.1% rodents, 23.6% ungulates, 5.2% hares, pikas, and rabbits, and 2.1% ground squirrels. However, it will augment its diet with herbs and fruits. Being an efficient predator it will target its food source according to seasonal availability.

The 23.6% ungulate component in its diet suggests that it will consume carrion or remains of animals that were killed by other mammals.

When the weather is cold, swift foxes will cache surplus food reserves in the snow.

Breeding and Reproduction of Swift Fox:

Swift Fox

Swift Fox
Photo By Bureau of Land Management - Flickr

Here in Canada, the breeding of mature swift foxes begins late February to March, gestation is about 50 days and a single litter of 4-5 pups is produced late April to Mid-May.

Pairing of the foxes is sporadic in that some pairs will stay together throughout their lives while others will choose a different partner each year.

Sexual maturity for this fox is reached at one year old for males and females are generally in their second year of life before breeding occurs.

The swift fox is quite capable of digging their own burrow or den but they will often convert and use abandoned dens of other mammals like that of a badger or ground squirrel.

The pups are born blind and deaf and the vixen will constantly care for them until their eyes and ears are functional in 10 to 15 days. During this period the male fox hunts and provides food for the female and its pups. The newborns will remain in the burrow for about one month. At this time both adult foxes will hunt and provide food for the growing family. At 6 to 7 weeks of age the kits will be out of den and feeding on their own. The pups remain with their parents and disperse in the fall at 4-5 months of age. The average dispersal range of the young foxes is 12.8 km. but ranges as high as 190 km. have been recorded.

The swift fox is not like other members of the dog family in that it will utilize multiple dens (as many as 13) during the year as part of its rearing, predator avoidance, hunting, and shelter strategy. Another abnormality of this fox is that it is the female that maintains the home range and social structure of the group. It is the male that migrates if the female dies.

Status of Swift Fox in Canada

Probably taking into account the status of the US Swift Fox population it is listed as a species of least concern (2016) on the Red List. However the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada COSEWIC assessed it as “threatened” in November of 2009.

When considering the mortality rate of the swift fox, 31% of the deaths come from coyotes. The important note here is that the coyote does not kill this fox for food. Natural predators of the fox, includes birds of prey (6%) and badgers (3%). Predation by Bobcats is likely but that impact is unknown.

Human interaction is primarily from vehicular interaction on roads (6%).

An interesting aspect noted by one source was that they are sometimes killed by hunters because they were thought to be a coyote. I cannot stress enough that as a hunter, we are responsible for what we do. Recognition of the species needs to be considered every time we pull the trigger.

Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

 

Grey Fox In Tree

Gray Fox In Tree 
 Photo By Todd Fowler - Flickr


Range - Distribution and Habitat of Gray Fox

Grey Fox Range Map of Canada

 Grey Fox Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

The Gray Fox does not have a large range in Canada. Range exists in Southern Ontario, (Pelee Island on Lake Erie, Niagara Region, Windsor Area, and Thousand Islands). Additional sightings have been made west of Lake Superior in the Rainy River District of Ontario and Manitoba. Because of its proximity to Ontario’s Thousand Islands a few of these foxes may inhabit a very small portion of Southern Quebec.

The Gray Fox is quite territorial of it range and on a daily basis, it will utilize only a small portion of its 1 to 7 Km² territory as it aimlessly searches within its territory for food.  The average territory is 2.1Km² in size, depending largely on the geographic structure of the territory and available food supply in it..

Preference is given to territories on the fringe areas of farmland and broad-leaf forests or marshes with water readily available nearby. Gray Foxes utilize dens more often than Red Foxes. The den of this fox is usually found in an underground cavity such as: in a hollow tree or log, in abandoned burrows from other animals, or in a crevice located between or under large rocks. A unique aspect of this member of the canid family is that it is the only member that is capable of climbing trees and can even leap from branch to branch. Keep this in mind if you think you detect a den in the forest canopy as high as 32 ft. (10 meters) in the air in a hollow tree trunk or between limbs.

The Gray Fox is the prevailing species when Red and Gray Foxes co-exist.

The Gray fox is mainly nocturnal or more active at twilight; it also seems to be hindered by cold weather and deep snow conditions.

Description of Gray Fox:

The Gray Fox is similar in size and appearance to that of the Red Fox. The Gray Fox is often mistaken for a Red Fox because of its rusty-red fur on its ears, ruffs and neck. Differentiating features include: its rounded ears and brownish or tawny coloured fur with streaks of grey and light cinnamon coloured patches on its body. Its tail is very long and bushy with the tip of its tail being black instead of white. Its legs and ears are shorter and it also lacks the “black leg stocking” that Red Fox has. It has a smaller nose, an overall color that is grey. The darkest colour on the Grey Fox runs along the top of its back on down to the end of its tail. The under belly, throat, and chest areas are an off white color.

Like most members of the dog family, males are slightly larger than females. A typical shoulder height for the species is 15 in. (38cm), an overall length of 29.9 – 44.3 in. (76 - 112.5 cm) from head to tail, the tail will take up 10.8 – 17.4 in. (27.5 - 44.3 cm) of that overall length and have a weight of 7.9 – 15.4 lbs. (3.6 - 7 kg.). Some specimens have been recorded at 20 lbs. (9 kg). 

Again, one of the unique evolutionary features of this fox is its strong non retractable hooked claws that allow it to climb a branchless vertical tree trunk to a height of 32 ft (10 meters). This defence mechanism allows it to escape many would be predators like a domestic dog or coyote. It also allows it access to food sources in the tree tops that other members of the dog family can’t get to or it may simply wish to take a nap in the sun.

It is able to travel and jump from branch to branch of trees. Descending from trees is primarily by jumping from branch to branch, or it may slowly climb backwards down the trunk like a cat would and is able to descend head first.

Additional miscellaneous anatomical features are:

  • Both male and female Gray Foxes have scent glands jusst inside the anus.
  • Additional scent glands are found on their face and the pads of their feet.
  • Although these glands are primarily used to mark their territory, they may also be used to attract potential mates.
  • The eyes of the Gray Fox are dark eyes with elliptical or oval pupils (instead of slit-like).
  • Dental formula is: Incisors 3/3, Canine 1/1, Premolars 4/4, Molars 2/3 = 42 teeth.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Gray Fox:

 Grey Fox

Gray Fox

 Photo By John Northrup - Flickr

Despite the fact that this fox does possess an acute sense of smell, the foraging strategy for this mammal is not to track its prey but to aimlessly wander and search for it by either smelling or hearing it. Once prey is detected it may stalk it and finally use a pouncing method to capture it.

The Gray Fox hunts alone and preys on both plant and animal food sources. It will prey on rabbits, squirrels, mice, voles, shrews, rats, insects, and birds like quail, turkeys, and ruffed grouse. When it comes to birds that it preys on, it will take and target adult birds as well as the birds young and eggs. During the winter, its diet consists more of rabbits and rodents where as in the summer and fall it will supplement with and consume what ever vegetable matter is available and that could be in the form of apples, corn, wild grapes, nuts and berries. Like the other members of the Canid family Grays will eat also carrion left by other mammals.

Breeding and Reproduction of Gray Fox:

Most Gray Foxes breed and raise litters in the first year of their lives because male Gray Foxes reach sexual maturity at about 365 days where as females take only 345 days. During September and October males and females pair off before the breeding season arrives. The business of attracting mates becomes competitive at this time and males can exhibit a lot of aggression while trying to get and keep a mate.

The Gray Fox breeds once a year in the months from January to May with the peak of the season occurring in early March. Typically they have only one partner but rare occurrences of polygamy and polyandry do exist.

Shortly before bearing her litter, the female will search out and prepare a maturity den. The male will begin to do the majority of foraging for food for the pair of them at this time and will continue to do so until the pups come out of the den in about 3 months. Dens are generally in the ground, although capable of climbing trees and using a hollow as a den, this fox will rarely do so.

From the time that the litter of kits is born: till the time that the young disperse. The family group will consist of the male, female and young pups.

The gestation period for the female is 51 – 63 days with an average of 53 days. Most litters of 1 to 7 pups are born in late March or April and average 3.8 pups. The pups are born blind, have a fine black textured fur and will weigh approximately 3.35 oz. (95g). Their eyes will open in 9-12 days.  

The pups begin eating solid food around the time that they are 3 weeks old. Pups are taught their hunting skills by going after and pouncing on small mammals that have been brought to them by the male.

The male continues to hunt for the family and the female provides den care for their offspring until they are about 3 months of age. At this time the young will begin to exit the den and forage with the parents. Nursing of the young continues till about the 4th month (84 to 120 days) which is when their teeth are developed and they are capable of hunting for themselves.

The group of parents and young stay together until the fall at which time the young have reached sexual maturity and will set out on their own. The distance that the young Gray Foxes travel can be as short as a mile of their birthplace. For this reason, Gray Foxes can have high population densities where adequate food sources are found.

The life expectancy of a wild Gray Foxes is 6 – 10 years of age,

Status of Gray Fox in Canada

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada COSEWIC assessed it as “threatened” in November of 2015.

When it comes to diseases, the Gray Fox can fall victim to parvo enteritis, rabies, roundworms, tapeworms, lice and mites. The opportunity for contact with domestic dogs can lead to cases of distemper which is oftentimes lethal and destroy Gray Fox populations.

The Gray Fox has several natural predators, namely coyotes, bobcats, great horned owls, and golden eagles. But the worst enemy of the Gray Fox is probably the domestic dog. Juvenile Gray Foxes are often killed by dogs before they have a chance to get to safety in a hole or up a tree.

The effect of trapping Gray Foxes in Canada is not really known. But it is thought that this activity is limiting the range of the Gray outside of Pelee Island.  

References
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/red-fox.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_fox
  • http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/featured-species/swift_fox.html?gclid=CjwKEAjwudW9BRDcrd30kovf8GkSJAB3hTxFrBTZLH16hCIAXE4HzF--ExBkLOHAISXtQUMwCxX1NBoChhnw_wcB?referrer=https://www.google.ca/
  • Translated: es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulpes_velox&prev=search
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/swift-fox.html
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/arctic-fox.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_fox
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/red-fox.html
  • http://www.hww.ca/assets/pdfs/factsheets/red-fox-en.pdf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_fox_(animal)
  • http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=140
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/species-at-risk/species-at-risk-publications-web-resources/mammals/documents/SAR-StatusSwiftFoxAlberta-1997.pdf
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/wild-dogs/swift-fox.aspx
  • https://www.ontario.ca/page/grey-fox
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_fox
  • http://mnrsar.cat.webfeat.com/pages/MNR_SAR_GRY_FX_EN.aspx
  • http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=157

Background Images

  • Arctic Fox - Emma - Flickr
  • Red Fox - Yellowstone National Park - Flicker
  • Swift Fox - Tim Strater - Flicker
  • Listing information on this website has been collected and presented as accurately as possible.
  • In case of any difference(s) between the information listed about outfitter's / resorts / guides.
  • The outfitter's website should always be taken.
  • This website should not be considered as the final say when it comes to hunting regulations.
  • Always consult the Provincial / Territorial jurisdiction that you are going to when planning your hunt.
  • Images on this site have been collected and used under Creative Commons License or are public domain images. 
  • Recipes are the work of Canada-Hunts.ca. You may reprint and distribute them for personal non commercial use. 
  • Please include Canada-Hunts.ca as your source on all copies.
  • Hunting Optics Blog information was provided by the generosity of Vortex Canada.
  • All work in that blog is their sole property and permission to reuse it should be directed to Vortex of Canada.

If you want more information use the form below and contact us.

Find the best places to hunt Groundhog in Canada and discover the Groundhog's Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Provinces with Groundhog Hunting

Province / Territory

Species

Season

Nunavut

Absent

 

Northwest Territories

Present

 

Yukon

Present

 

British Columbia

Present

No Season 

Alberta

Present

Season Available 

Saskatchewan

Present

 

Manitoba

Present

 

Ontario

Present

Season Available 

Quebec

Present

Season Available 

New Brunswick

Present

Season Available 

Nova Scotia

Present

 

Prince Edward Island

Present

 

Newfoundland

Present-Labrador

Groundhog - Marmota monax

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Groundhog

Groundhog Range Map of Canada 

Groundhog Range Map of Canada 
 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

The Groundhog (woodchuck) is widely distributed through most of Canada and can be commonly found in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Southern Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Most of Alberta, Central to Eastern British Columbia, Southern Yukon, and Southern NWT.

This is a species who’s numbers have increased and expanded into new ranges through the deforestation and agriculture efforts of land development.

The groundhog tends to inhabit boreal forests, parklands and foothill natural regions where forested areas are broken by land covered with grass and other low plants suitable for grazing animals. The woodchucks tend to stay clear of damp and / or swampy tracts of land. Look for them in a field, clearing, open forest, or open rocky slope.

Description of Groundhog:

 Groundhog Burrow

Groundhog Burrow 
Photo By Brian Henderson - Flickr 

With a strong family tie to squirrels, prairie dogs, and chipmunks; the Groundhog (Marmota monax) is a kind of rodent that is known as a marmot. It may also be called a woodchuck, whistlepig, chuck, wood-shock, groundpig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, and red monk. Beavers and porcupines are the only rodents in North America that are larger than marmots. 

The fur of the groundhog consists of an inner dense grey fur and a coat of longer outer guard hairs that that is brown.

Evolution has developed this mammal to proficiently burrow or dig in the ground. With that in mind it has developed with the following traits. Its body is small, round and stocky, small face, small ears, has a flattened head, its spine is curved to give it flexibility and agility, and a short tail.

They have short thick legs and thick curved claws. These powerful appendages make it easy for them to dig as their front limbs have four well developed claws, and the hind ones have five.

The overall length of the Groundhog is from 16 – 26 inches (40 – 65 cm.) long and including its 6 inch (15 cm.) tail. With the onset of freezing weather, adult groundhogs reach their maximum weight and enter hibernation before the juveniles do. This may be because the young ones need more time to put on enough fat to get them through the winter. The first adults go into hibernation late in September, and by October all woodchucks will be underground. Their weight will be from 4 to 9 lbs. (2 - 4 kg).  Although in territories where there are fewer natural predators and large amounts of alfalfa are grown this species can attain a length of 30 ins. (80 cm.) and weight 31 lbs. (14 kg).

With a top speed of 9 m/hr (15 km./hr), this is not a fast mammal. But being a burrowing mammal its natural escape / defence mechanism is to stay close to its burrow and duck into it should a predator appear.

This species is a true hibernator in that from October to March or April it lowers its body temperature to 3°C (just above freezing), slows its rate of breathing, its heart rate will drop from a normal rate of about 80 beats per minute to only four or five, and in general be in a state of deep comatose sleep. Because of this, it digs a “winter burrow” in a wooded or brush covered area below the frost line so that a stable temperature well above freezing during the winter months can be attained.

They will have retained some of their body fat when they come out of hibernation. This fat allows them to survive until the warmer spring weather produces lots of green vegetation for forage.

“Summer burrows” are not as deep as the “Winter Burrows” and are usually dug in areas where abundant grasses and other short-growing plants provide forage. These burrows are often located in the center of a pasture or meadow and will normally have a main entrance, one or more "spyholes" to check out the landscape from for enemies, have a separate toilet area and a nesting chamber. The same nest is normally a few feet long with multiple chambers. If dug deep enough it may used for sleeping, hibernation, and as a nursery. It will have a main chamber that is about 17.7 in. (45 cm.) wide and over 11.8 in. (30 cm.) high and is lined with dry grass. 

From March or April till the fall when they hibernate, groundhogs are active during the daytime, and are often seen early in the morning or late afternoon. Their activities consist of caring for their young, foraging for food, and sunning themselves. They love to sun themselves on the warm ground, a smooth rock or along a low branch of a nearby tree. They have limited tree climbing ability and rarely do so.

The life expectancy of a wild groundhog is 4 to 5 years of age.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Groundhog:

Groundhog Foraging 

Groundhog Foraging 
Photo From Pixabay 

The groundhog eats primarily wild grasses, agricultural crops and other vegetation like clover, alfalfa, dandelion, and coltsfoot and for that reason is considered to be mostly an herbivore.

However, it will include berries, nuts, your garden vegetables, grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals (such as young birds) in its diet.

It is believed that this species gets the water that they require from the juices of the plants that they forage on.

Breeding and Reproduction of Groundhog:

 
 
 Photo By Andy - Flickr

The first thing to happen when a groundhog comes out of hibernation is for its heartbeat to rise from 4-5 beats per minute to 80 beats per minute. During this wake up period that can take several hours, it will shiver uncontrollably.

There are two things on its mind at this point, the first thing is an overwhelming urge to mate, and the second is to eat. They will breed in the den during the months of March and April; after the female is pregnant she has a gestation period of 31-32 days. The mated pair will remain in the den during the gestation period and a litter 2-6 young (average of 4) are born in a litter in April – May (mainly May). The male leaves the den at this point in time.

The groundhog family produces a single litter annually. They are born covered with no hair, blind, helpless, are about 3.9 inches (10 cm,) in length and weigh about 1 oz. (30 g).  Their eyes will open around day 28 after birth and will be covered with short hair at this time.

With a desire to forage and to offset the effects of not eating for 4 to 5 months, the male is the first to come to the surface soon followed by the female. It will 4 to 5 weeks (late June) before you see the young of the litter. They will have made the transition from mother’s milk to solid foods at this time. It is at this time that the male may rejoin the family unit.

The young are encouraged to copy the behaviours of the adults. The juveniles will put on weight quickly and by 8 weeks of age will weigh 1.2 lbs. (570 g.). The young disperse at the end of August, burrow their own dens and put on fat in time for hibernation in the fall.  

Groundhogs normally mate in their second year but they are capable of mating and having young at one year of age.

Status of Groundhog in Canada

It is listed as a species of least concern (August 2016) on the Red List and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada COSEWIC assessed has no assessment.

The groundhog or woodchuck is considered a pest by farmers as their burrow holes will break the legs of livestock and consume agricultural crops. For this reason, hunters who take them for sport are encouraged by the farming community.

The hope is to control the numbers of woodchucks but the groundhogs  ability to multiply tends to negate that effect that sport hunting has.

The groundhog is Canada’s large true hibernator and such gets a lot of attention from the medical research community. They want to study the groundhogs ability to lower its body temperature, reduce heart rate, and reduce their oxygen consumption. 

References

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/woodchuck.html
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/rabbits-rodents/woodchuck.aspx

Background Images

Michelle Tribe - Flicker

  • Listing information on this website has been collected and presented as accurately as possible.
  • In case of any difference(s) between the information listed about outfitter's / resorts / guides.
  • The outfitter's website should always be taken.
  • This website should not be considered as the final say when it comes to hunting regulations.
  • Always consult the Provincial / Territorial jurisdiction that you are going to when planning your hunt.
  • Images on this site have been collected and used under Creative Commons License or are public domain images. 
  • Recipes are the work of Canada-Hunts.ca. You may reprint and distribute them for personal non commercial use. 
  • Please include Canada-Hunts.ca as your source on all copies.
  • Hunting Optics Blog information was provided by the generosity of Vortex Canada.
  • All work in that blog is their sole property and permission to reuse it should be directed to Vortex of Canada.

 

If you need more information use the form below and contact us.

Find the best places to hunt Badger in Canada and discover the Badger's Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Provinces with Badger Hunting

Province / Territory

Species

Season

Nunavut

Absent

 

Northwest Territories

Absent

 

Yukon

Absent

 

British Columbia

Present

 

Alberta

Present

Resident

Saskatchewan

Present

 

Manitoba

Present

 

Ontario

Present

 

Quebec

Absent

 

New Brunswick

Absent

 

Nova Scotia

Absent

 

Prince Edward Island

Absemt

 

Newfoundland

Absent

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Badgers

There are three species of Badger occurring in their northern range limit here in Canada.

American Badger (jacksoni) is an endangered subspecies that can be found in southern parts of Ontario and South-western Manitoba. Most of Ontario’s badgers reside along the north shore of Lake Erie in open spaces that are mostly associated to farming operations and along woodland edges. There have also been a few reports of Badger in the Bruce-Grey region.

The Badger (T. t. taxus) has a COSEWIC status of “Special Concern”. It can be found in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The existence of Badger in Manitoba has been closely linked to the Richardson's ground squirrels as a source of prey. So it is not surprising to find it in the aspen parklands,

British Columbia is the only Canadian home of Badger (T. t. jeffersonii) and has a COSEWIC status of “Endangered”. Inhabiting dry spaces like Upper Columbia River Valley it is estimated that less than 200 badgers remain.

Badger Range Map of Canada

Badger Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

In general terms, this species likes to occupy grasslands and open areas containing grasslands. These areas can include open land consisting of fields, forest glades, farmland, marshes, and treeless areas. The key ingredients in every case is for the space to have soft crumbly soil and a good supply of rodents for prey.

Dens (burrows) made up of connecting tunnels and numerous entrances are formally called a sett or set. These setts are extremely important to the badger as they function as a platform in which they can sleep during the day, food storage, raising their young, and should be close to a source of prey. These setts are usually dug in well drained and loose soil such as sand. , Sloping ground with is some cover is another favourable condition for the sett.

Badgers live in colonies and will use several setts. Most of the colony will use a large main sett that is usually located in the middle of a colony's territory and will be occupied by most of the colony's members. Smaller setts located away from the main sett is usually smaller and may have only two or three entrances. Its’ use is for a small group of colony members who may be foraging for a seasonal food sources or as a maternal sett when the main sett is too crowded for raising young.

The main setts can be quite large and spacious. Spacious enough to house 15 or more members of the colony and may have up to 980 ft (300 m.) of tunnels with as many as 40 openings in various states of use. Such complex setts require extensive tunnelling and may take many years for colony(s) of badgers to complete. They are dug under ground any where from 1.6 to 6.6 ft. (0.5 – 2 m.) deep and contain large chambers lined with grass, straw, ferns, or dead leaves for bedding material. Dug tunnels are somewhat like the build of the badger in that they are broader at 12 in. (30 cm.) than their height of 9.8 in (25 cm).

Large amounts of earth, old bedding, stones, and even the bones of expired badgers may be found below the opening of a sett and may utilize an existing structure like a building, pile of rock or timber

The Badger uses a lot of different setts and may change a sett every day, except for when it has young.

Description of Badger:

Badger 

 Badger
Badger - Larry Lamsa - Flickr 

Badgers are omnivores (eats both plants and meat) belonging to the weasel family (Mustelidae) and are related to mink, otters, weasels, polecats, marten and wolverine.

The male of the species is generally larger than the female. Males will weigh 20 lb. (9 kg.) while females will be 15 lb. (7 kg.) in weight. The badger has a body length of 23.5 to 29.5 inches (60 - 75 cm.).

There are a lot of physical characteristics in describing the badger. I see it as the sports car of animals. Starting with a well built wide body that is low to the ground and quite muscular. Propulsion for this mammal is delivered through a set of short powerful front bowed legs that are dark brown in color from which its long sharp 2 in. (5 cm.) claws give it the additional ability to dig rapidly in soil. Its rear legs are also short, have shorter hind claws which are used to shovel away the dirt that has been dug with its fore-claws. I need to mention its short tail and the fact that it has partial webbing between its toes and claws. Its’ neck is very muscular and thick. It head is wide pie shaped with short ears and a pointed nose.

Now let’s cover this animal with long thick fur and loose skin along its flanks. These features give it the appearance of being flat and that it floats on the ground when running but all of this is actually part of a defence mechanism. The evolutionary strategy here is that the loose skin and fur gives this animal time to turn on its’ would be attackers.

Evolutionary development has covered the body of the badger with a coat of brown, black and white coarse fur that have streaks of gray to give it a mixed brown-tan appearance and help it camouflage itself in its grassland habitat.

Give this little critter a white or cream colored face and add streaks of brown or black "badges" surrounded by yellowish colored fur on its cheeks and under its eyes. Now you know where it gets the name Badger from. Two additional streaks of black or brown start at its nose and go right up over its head between its eyes.

A badger uses a lot of vocalizations when it is attacked as part of its defence. During an attack it will hiss, growl, snarl, squeal and release a musk that might be used to deter a predator. Their musk is also used to identify each other and to mark trails.

Badgers are primarily nocturnal typically retreating to their sett at day-break, they will spend most of the day snoozing underground and come out just before dusk.

The life expectancy for a wild badger is 9–10 years of age with a record at 14 years old.

Dental formula: I 3/3, C 1/1, Pm 3/3, M 1/2 X 2 = 34.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Badger:

 Badger in Sett

 Badger In Sett
By USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Burrowing Badger) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

The badger is one of nature’s few mammals adapted to burrow and chase its prey through burrowing techniques. It will eat a wide variety of foods but it is primarily a carnivore and on its top 10 list are: pocket gophers, ground squirrels, moles, marmots, prairie dogs, pika, woodrats, kangaroo rats, deer mice, and voles,

Its list of prey does not stop here as lizards, reptiles, amphibians, carrion, fish, skunks, insects, including bees and honeycomb, and snakes (rattlesnakes included) are also on its diet.

Ground-nesting birds, their young, and eggs are not safe either. Birds like the bank swallow, sand martin, and burrowing owl are also prey. 

It will consume plant foods like like corn, peas, green beans, mushrooms and other fungi, and sunflower seeds.

Finally badgers will consume carrion and will cache surplus food.

The badgers foraging strategy is to find and pursue its prey into their dens by digging and at times blocking its preys’ tunnel entrance with obstacles. It sometimes burrows an exploratory hole, smell for its prey and if detected will dig it out and eat it.

Breeding and Reproduction of Badger:

Pair of Badgers

 
Pair of Badger 
Photo By - Larry Lamsa - Flickr 

Badgers are considered a reclusive mammal and it is thought that they expand their range during the mating season when they seek out new mates. Males will breed in August to September with more than one receptive female, if given the opportunity.

Female badgers delay the implantation of their embryo into the uterus until the months of December to late February. A litter of 1 to 5, with an average of 3, are born in the time period of late March to early April.

A natal den is built out of bulky grasses in an expanded chamber.

The young are born blind, fur covered, and helpless. They will open their eyes at 4 to 6 weeks or age, and come out of the natal den in 5 to 6 weeks. They are fed mother's milk, then solid foods prior to complete weaning. In August the young set off to establish their own territory.

A few females may ovulate and become pregnant at 4 to 5 months of age but sexual maturity for most females is reached at the age of 1 year while males normally don’t breed until they are 2 years old.

Status of Badger in Canada

 Badgers Playing

 
Badgers Playing
Photo By - Larry Lamsa - Flickr 

It is difficult to get an accurate count of badgers in an area because the mammal is primarily nocturnal, has a large home territory and there no relationship between populations size and burrow entrances

The subspecies located in British Columbia (jeffersonii) and Ontario (jacksoni) is listed as endangered.

Some of the sources for this decline are cited by an inability of the species to move through its normal range because of a loss of badger habitat and habitat fragmentation. Human impact like the clearing of native vegetation affects badger habitat with a loss in prey. Many badgers are killed along public roadways by automobiles. The shooting, poisoning and trapping of badgers by farmers, trappers, ranchers, and sport hunters all have a negative effect.

A few natural predators like the cougar, coyotes, or wolf will at times try to take on a badger. Eagles have been known to take young badgers. In spite of the opinion that it is a ferocious and aggressive fighter, the badgers’ first reaction is to hide when threatened. In such cases, it will burrow itself into a hole in minutes the whole time throwing dirt into the face of its attacker.

References

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badger
  • http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/featured-species/american_badger.html?gclid=CjwKEAjw3Nq9BRCw8OD6s4eI5HASJABsfCIawKAnxMwyDvpZxcsx7B-gpNiZgkPbsdidoQ9Vn6rC8xoCh23w_wcB?referrer=https://www.google.ca/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_badger
  • http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/badger.pdf
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/weasels-related/american-badger.aspx
  • http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/kootenay/natcul/blaireau-badger.aspx
  • https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=A6C3A000-1
  • https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/cosewic/sr_blaireau_am_badger_1113_e.pdf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sett

Background Images

Badger - Larry Lamsa - Flickr

  • Listing information on this website has been collected and presented as accurately as possible.
  • In case of any difference(s) between the information listed about outfitter's / resorts / guides.
  • The outfitter's website should always be taken.
  • This website should not be considered as the final say when it comes to hunting regulations.
  • Always consult the Provincial / Territorial jurisdiction that you are going to when planning your hunt.
  • Images on this site have been collected and used under Creative Commons License or are public domain images. 
  • Recipes are the work of Canada-Hunts.ca. You may reprint and distribute them for personal non commercial use. 
  • Please include Canada-Hunts.ca as your source on all copies.
  • Hunting Optics Blog information was provided by the generosity of Vortex Canada.
  • All work in that blog is their sole property and permission to reuse it should be directed to Vortex of Canada.

 

If you need more information use the form below and contact us.

 

Find the best places to hunt Squirrels in Canada and discover the Squirrel's Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Provinces with Squirrel Hunting

Province / Territory

Species

Season

Nunavut

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Arctic Ground Squirrel

 

Northwest Territories

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Arctic Ground Squirrel

 

Yukon

Norhtern Flying

Red Squirrel

 

British Columbia

Douglas

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

Arctic Ground Squirrel

Fox Squirrel

Gray Squirrel 

Alberta

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Franklin's Ground Squirrel

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

Resident

Saskatchewan

Eastern Gray

Eastern Fox

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Franklin's Ground Squirrel

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

Arctic Ground Squirrel

 

Manitoba

Eastern Gray

Eastern Fox

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Franklin's Ground Squirrel

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

Arctic Ground Squirrel

Gray Squirrels

Red Squirrels Trapping Only 

Ontario

Eastern Gray

Eastern Fox

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Southern Flying

Franklin's Ground Squirrel

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

Gray Squirrels

Fox Squirrels

Not Red Squirrels 

Quebec

Eastern Gray

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Southern Flying

 

New Brunswick

Eastern Gray

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Southern Flying

 

Nova Scotia

Northern Flying

Red Squirrel

Southern Flying

Red Squirrel 
Prince Edward Island Red Squirrel Red Squirrel 
Newfoundland

Northern Flying - Labrador

Red Squirrel - Labrador

Trapping Only

Eastern Gray Squirrel - Sciurus Carolinenis 

 Eastern Grey Squirrel
 


Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Eastern Gray Squirrel:

In Canada the Eastern Gray Squirrel can be found the southern sections of New Brunswick, Quebec, and Manitoba. It also occupies a small section of South-eastern Ontario and South Central to South Eastern Saskatchewan. Nova Scotia has a small population of breeding squirrels and it is unknown is they were introduced or were native to the province.

Each individual maintains a home range where it searches for food, makes its den / nest, and will rear its young. Home ranges may overlap with others of the same species with minimal territorial behaviour. The home range of a male Eastern Gray is larger than that of a female. It is common to see individual squirrels feeding close to each other without confrontation. During the winter months, a few individuals may share the same den

Wild eastern Gray squirrels like to make home in large areas of fully developed dense woodlands that cover 100 acres (40 hectares) of land. Within it, it will normally establish a home range of 1 – 2 hectares. In order to provide adequate food sources and shelter, favourable habitat of these forests should contain large amounts of dense vegetation beneath the main canopy. Deciduous hardwood forests like oak or hickory are favoured over coniferous forests.

It likes to make its den within the hollow trunk of a tree, or on a large tree branch if no hollow is available. They will even make a shelter from an abandoned bird nest. Their den is usually lined with soft material like moss, thistledown, dried grass, or feathers. It is thought that this lining may provide insulation for the den. A covering of leaves for the den is usually built later.

When colonies of Grays are found close to urban settings it makes home in parks, the back yards of homes within the urban environments and on farmlands of rural environments.

Eastern Gray Squirrel Range Map of Canada 

Eastern Gray Squirrel Range Map of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

 

 

Description of Eastern Gray Squirrel:

This species of squirrel also known as the Cat Squirrel, Bannertail, Silvertail, or Migratory Squirrel is largest tree squirrel found in eastern Canada. It is quite adaptable to its environment and will feed on both plant and animal material mainly during the day.

The Eastern Gray can range in length from 15 to 20.7 inches (38.3-52.5 cm) with an average of 18.6 inches (47.3 cm.). 
Regarding it weight, it will range 0.75 to 1.65 lbs. (338-750 g.) with 1.15 lbs. (520 g.) being the average weight.. 

This accomplished squirrel has been reported to live to ten years of age in the wild. However despite its success and its capable longevity the average life span is only 11-12 months.

The colouring of this squirrel can frequently appear in two colour phases, grey and black and may change with the seasons.

Most people in my local think that there are black squirrels and grey squirrels. The reality is that both are Gray Squirrels: the black is simply put a “Black Gray Squirrel”. The black phase of this squirrel is more prevalent as you travel northward through its range. With this in mind, it is not surprising to see that the prevailing colour for this squirrel in Ontario and Quebec is Black. Albino Grey squirrels are not rare with this species: for locals of Exeter, Ontario the Albino colour is a frequent attention getter.

Cases of this squirrel having a reddish colour phase are rare. Squirrels exhibiting this reddish colouring seem to always have a black body with either a reddish hue on the black and I’ve even seen a black bodied red tail specimen.

The squirrel’s fur grows thicker and longer in the winter. The colouring of a “Grey Gray Squirrel” has streaks of grey and black long hair over a undercoat of lead-grey. “Black Gray Squirrel” have long guard hairs and shorter undercoats of black fur. This combination gives the Blacks a uniform black glossy look all over.

Its’ large bushy tail is a physical feature that serves several significant purposes:

  • The squirrel uses it to steer itself while jumping from branch to branch.
  • It can be used in the winter as a blanket
  • The tail is a form or communication to other squirrels of the same species.
  • It can also be used to alter a pursuing predators’ focus of attention.

The eastern grey squirrel is considered a tree dweller and moves about the tree tops with considerable agility. However, it may come to the ground level in order to forage for food or store food in hiding places for later consumption. On the ground it shows good agility and is able to reach speeds of up to 15.5 mph (25 kph). It ascends and descends trees head first.

When it feels threatened it has a couple of defence strategies. The first is to quietly move to the backside of a tree truck just out of sight of the predator. The second method is to use its colouring as camouflage and remain motionless. 

By most standards of the animal kingdom this squirrel is quite a pacifist. It does not actually fight with others of the same species but males and females do maintain a hierarchy of dominance through a deceptive display of force or by pursuing an individual.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Eastern Gray Squirrel:

The Eastern Gray primarily consumes nuts (mast) and historically its territories match those of stands of oak and hickory deciduous forests. The spectrum of foods that it eats also includes, tree bark, tree buds, berries, seeds, acorns, walnuts, and other nuts. It will also partake of some types of fungi.

This species is fairly tolerance of humans and will inhabit urban residential developments and their associated parks. However, some members of our society consider them a nuisance because they habitually target bird feeders and effectively clean the feeders out of their bird seed. Gardeners have issues with this creature as it will consume their tomatoes, corn, strawberries, and other garden crops. 

When food becomes hard to come by, this squirrel will consume insects, frogs, small rodents, other squirrels, small birds, birds’ eggs and young birds. 

This squirrel does not hibernate and remains active all year long mainly during times of daylight. During summer months it is out and about in the periods of early morning and mid-afternoon. During winter months it tends to be about at midday, possibly making the most out of the warmest time of the day.  

Breeding and Reproduction of the Eastern Gray Squirrel:

The Gray Squirrel may breed twice a year. The spring period sees the less experienced younger mothers along with mature females mating in December to February. However, only older and more experienced females will breed in the summer session which occurs in May to June.

The timing of breeding periods and the success of breeding is dependant on climate, temperature, and forage availability. For each breeding season the female undergoes a gestation period of about 44 days and spring litters are born in February to March while summer litters are born in June or July,

The size of the litters for this squirrel can be from 1 to 8 individuals but 2 to 3 is the average size. The young are born blind and hairless. Their colour can be of a mixed colouration in that some may be grey and some may be black.  

Spring litters are fully weaned and abandoned by the mother at about 8 to 9 weeks of age, They will leave the maternal nest at about 12 weeks of age.

Fall litters for some reason may wean an additional 6 weeks and winter with their mother.

September finds juveniles and some adults dispersing to find a home range of their own in what is called the "fall reshuffle."

The average age of sexual maturity for female Eastern Gray Squirrels is 1.25 years and 1-2 years of age for males. It is possible for a female to enter estrus at 5 ½ months of age but that is extremely rare. Females generally do not enter estrus before one year of age and the mean age of first estrus is 1.25 years. 

Mortality rates for this squirrel are high, 75% of them will not survive to their 1st birthday and 55% of those will die the following year. Mortality rates improve after their second birthday with a 70% survival rates for each of their till they are 8 years of age.

The life expectancy for a wild Gray Squirrel can be as long as 13 years of age but the average is 3 years.

Status of Eastern Gray Squirrel:

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern, 2016..

This squirrel has few natural predators and of those species like Red foxes, Hawks, Raccoons. Fox Squirrels and Snakes. It is the young that is most often preyed upon.

Additional factors that impact its survival is the availability of food, winter conditions, and parasites.

This squirrel seems to suffer extensively from many diseases and parasites. The mange mite is a parasite that causes hair loss and if it is severe enough the squirrel will succumb to the cold in the winter months. It can be a host for lice, worms, and ticks as well as have a lot of cysts on it body from Botfly larvae. It can get a viral disease called Fibrmatosis which causes large tumors on its skin. This tumor can be deadly if it forms around its mouth or eyes because the squirrel will either lose its eyesight or starve to death. 

Eastern Fox Squirrel - Sciurus Niger

Eastern Fox Squirrel
Photo By Mikemoral [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Eastern Fox Squirrel

Canadian populations of the eastern Fox Squirrel can be found in British Columbia, south-eastern Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba and on Pelee Island, at the west end of Lake Erie where Ontario’s population of fox squirrels was introduced to the island in 1893.

The Eastern Fox Squirrel is much like the Eastern Gray Squirrels in many ways. Their breeding periods coincide with each other. Nests and dens are made in the same type of places in much the same manner and they forage for the same foods.

Their main differences arise in the choice of habitat. The Fox Squirrels will select a stand with more open underbrush, whereas The Gray will chose stands of forest will a much denser underbrush and tree canopy

It is not found in stands of forest with thick undergrowth but rather open forests where the tree canopy closure is 20% to 60% and the underbrush is 30% or less. Preferred habitat for this species of squirrel is in small stands (40 hectares or less) of large oak, hickory, walnut, or pine trees that are scattered amongst farm land. 

This squirrel is able prosper in a city or town where they will take advantage of a home dwelling to obtain food from its gardens or nest in a house attic instead of the hollow of a tree.

The Eastern Fox Squirrels may have two nests/dens and they will be either a leaf nest or a tree den or a combination of the two. The purpose of the den/shelter is to provide winter shelter or to raise their young in and its’ preference is for a tree den over that of a leaf nest. However, when suitable trees for constructing a den in are scarce, it will use a leaf nest all year-long. 

The best den sites are provided by forests that contain very mature or over mature trees that have a diameter of 15 in. (38 cm.) or more. This type of forest will have lots of tree cavities and provide enough sites in which suitable dens and leaf nests can be built.

Tree dens may be a naturally formed tree cavity, tree crotch, an abandoned northern flicker or red-headed woodpecker nest, a crows’ nest or they may make their own den by chewing out a hollow in the interior of a tree.

When leaf nests made of twigs and leaves (dreys) are used they are normally built in the fork of a deciduous tree about 30 ft (9 m.) above ground level during the summer months.

Eastern Fox Squirrel Range Map of Canada

 Eastern Fox Squirrel Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Description of Eastern Fox Squirrel:

The Eastern Fox Squirrel may also be known as the Bryant's fox squirrel. The overall body length of this species will range from 17.9 to 27.5 in. (45.4-69.8 cm) with 27.4 in. (59.5 cm) being the average. Its tail length, ranges from 7.9 to 13.0 in. (20-33 cm.) and its weight varies from 1.53 to 2.72 lbs. (696-1,233 g.) with 1.76 lbs (800 g) being the average.

It is a medium-sized tree squirrel with no apparent differences between the sexes as far as size or appearance goes. Geographical differences do exist in that the species is generally smaller in size out west.

This species has a long list of evolutionary developments that help it survive. It has sharp claws that are curved inward for climbing trees and has good muscle development on its digits, forearms, and abdomen. Even under low light conditions its eyesight is considered excellent and its senses of hearing and smell are good.

Fox squirrels often grow ear tufts in the winter and have sets of long stiff hairs (called vibrissae) located above and below their eyes, on their chin and nose, and on each forearm. These whiskers are touching receptors that are used to sense its environment.

Its’ long foxtail-like tail is a physical feature that serves several significant purposes:

  • The squirrel uses it to steer itself while jumping from branch to branch.
  • It can be used in the winter as a blanket
  • The tail is a form or communication to other squirrels of the same species.
  • It can also be used to alter a pursuing predators’ focus of attention.

They have to be admired for their jumping ability as they can easily make a horizontal leap fifteen feet. Or they may make a free-fall more than twenty feet onto a tree limb or trunk or more with a soft landing.

The colour of this squirrel can vary by its geographical location from an overall pale grey colour to black with white feet. Here in Canada most specimens are brownish-grey to brownish-yellow on their upper body with a brownish-orange underside of the abdomen. Their ears, cheeks, and feet will be a brown color with a reddish-orange colouring. Non Canadian squirrels (in the Appalachians) may be a dark brown or black with white bands on their face and tail. Further south colonies of squirrels with uniform black coats can be found in eastern portions of the US.

The home range of this species can exhibit extensive overlapping of each other. They are however not noted to be a sociable mammal and with the exception of breeding season or where food supplies are centrally located. The Fox squirrel is considered somewhat of a recluse because it avoids social interaction.

Communications are established through scent markings and vocal sounds that consist of barks, clicks, clucks, chatters, distress screams, and high-pitched whines. Approaching predators are signalled by a distress scream and their chattering sounds can be rowdy in the spring and they can make it difficult to listen for snaps to be heard while deer hunting in the fall. Mating seasons are full of their high-pitched whines rebounding through the forest.

Communication may also be done through posturing. For example, by standing erect and with sudden sharp movements of its tail over it back, it will signal its hostility to other squirrels of the same species.

Wild mature Eastern Fox Squirrel has a life expectancy of 8 to 18 years of age. It is getting to adulthood that is the issue as most wild fox squirrels only make it to 7.0 months of age.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Eastern Fox Squirrel:

Fox squirrels are strictly active during daylight and don’t generally defend their areas against intruders. They occupy more of their time foraging and rummaging about on the ground than Gray Squirrels do. This squirrel may be seen in fields quite far from trees whereas Gray Squirrel won’t do that.

This species is an omnivore, in that, it will eat food that is either plant or animal in origin but it mainly eats nuts and seeds. Forage material is primarily dependant upon it local, and what seasonal food sources are available.

Spring foods will consist of tree buds, flowers, insects, bird eggs, and the seeds of maple or elm trees.

Summer foods then move onto available sources of berries, plum and cherry pits, the fruit of basswood or box elder,  oak acorns, hickory nuts, the seeds of maple trees, grains, insects, and unripe corn.

In the fall these squirrels start to consume much more than is required for sustenance. This is done in order to put on extra weight in the form of body fat and it is this extra fat that helps them get through the winter months. Nutritional substance is obtained from acorns, chestnuts, hickory nuts, beechnuts, walnuts, butternuts, and hazelnuts.

In the winter, forage that was stored in a scattered fashion in the fall is relied on heavily. Cached items will include acorns, hickory, and walnuts. But the buds and seeds of elm, maple, and/or willow will also be included in their diet.  

“Scatterhoarding” is the term used for mammals that conceal small quantities of food in difference random locations and go back later to consume it. Relocating these hordes is in part through memory recall of the location of the stash and by smelling for it. Not all nuts and seeds that are scatterhoarded are recovered and this process is natures’ way of reforestation.

So far this is a pretty extensive list of food sources but items like insects, tubers, bulbs, roots, grubs, insects, caterpillars, moths, beetles, seeds of pines and spring-fruiting trees, tree bark, and fungi are also consumed when readily available or food shortages prevail. Farmers and gardeners are not left out of the picture as their agricultural crops of corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, and fruit are also targets.  Finally, they will eat birds, bones, other small animals, carrion, and dead fish.

Fox squirrels satisfy their need for water in part by consuming moist foods. If that is not enough, they need standing water to drink from, these sources are generally found in the form of rain water that has collected in the hollow or nooks of large trees.

Breeding and Reproduction of Eastern Fox Squirrel:

The Eastern Fox Squirrel is capable of mating any time of year; however, breeding generally has two peak periods. The first estrus period is in mid-December or early January when year old females and mature females breed. The second period occurs in June when typically only mature and experienced females breed again.

When a female comes into estrus males begin to collect in her home range. The males will compete and establish hierarchies of dominance amongst themselves for first breeding rights. The males trail the females around prior to estrus and smell the perineal region of the female. (The region located below the pelvic diaphragm and between her legs). The act of copulation only takes 30 seconds and the female may then mate with other males. During the act of copulation the male deposits a gelatinous secretion into the female’s genital tract. This plug hardens into what is called a copulatory plug and gives the males’ sperm a time advantage over other competing males to fertilize the females’ eggs first.

Nursing dens for the coming litters are formed in tree cavities from those that usually have been made by woodpeckers. If a tree cavity cannot be found a waterproof leaf nest (drey) will be constructed out of woven twigs and leaves.  

The first litters are born in January-April and June’s mating session is born in July-September after a gestation period of 44 to 45 days. The season and food constraints will affect the size of litters but the size of litters can vary from 1 to 6 individuals with an average litter size of 2-3.

For reproduction, the female fox squirrel requires extra protein and calcium. They get them through the consumption of bones, meat, and nuts. These needs will affect her ability to mate and the size of her litters in that if there is not enough food available. She may not breed and if she does, the size of her litter may be diminished. These food requirements must also continue into and through the nursing period of her young.

Young Fox Squirrel are born are blind, deaf, hairless, and helpless. Their weight will range 0.46 to 0.64 oz. (13-18 g.) and average 0.53 oz. (15 g.). In comparison to other rodents the young develop slowly.

The mother squirrel has to care for her young in the den/nest for the next 6 weeks. Each time the mother leaves the litter in the nest she will cover them with nesting material. The young will open their eyes at 4 to 5 weeks of age and open their ears at 6 weeks. By the time the young reach 8 to 10 weeks of age they will be weaned and self sufficient about 12 weeks.

Female and male fox squirrels reach sexual maturity at 10 to 11 months of age and are able to participate in the mating activities next spring.

January-April’s juveniles set out on their own in September or October while July-September’s litters may den up with their mother over the winter. It is thought that male fox squirrels travel farther when dispersing and may suffer higher mortality rates as a result.

Juvenile squirrels have relatively low fat reserves, a high rate of metabolism and when combined with their lack of experience in foraging for food. They are plunged into the precarious position of being particularly sensitive to food shortages and thus the mortality rate of juveniles is high the first winter.

Status of Eastern Fox Squirrel:

The Eastern Gray Fox Squirrel is listed is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern, 2008.

Because of this squirrel’s association with mature old growth forests, logging and forest fires in these stands are probably the greatest threat to their survival as a species.

The Fox squirrels have good agility and manoeuvrability while in the tree tops. Because of this: there are not many species that are able prey on adult squirrels but of those that do large hawks, eagles, and owls are their main threat. Snakes that climb trees and mammals such as the racoon and opossum don’t have the speed to catch an adult but nestlings and young squirrels are easy targets. An adult on rare occurrences may get caught on the ground out in the open where an opportunist predator like the bobcat, fox, coyote, or dog may be able to catch it.

Squirrels may be hunted by a few hunters as a source of food but here in Canada because of their southern local and low pelt value it is not likely a target for fur trappers. 

Douglas Squirrel - Tamiasciurus douglasii

Douglas Squirrel
Photo by Illustratedjc (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Douglas Squirrel:

Canada’s Douglas Squirrel population is located in South-western British Columbia. Here it mainly inhabits the mainland coastal regions from the Canadian – US border to just past the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It occurs on six of British Columbia’s coastal islands and the mainland of BC from the western shore eastward to about Pemberton, BC.

Along with the American Red Squirrel it is considered a pine squirrel in that they occupy coniferous forests of pine, fir, spruce and hemlock.

They can be found at elevations from sea level to 10.837 ft. (3300m.) and despite their preference for virgin or mature second-growth forests they may be found in other coniferous forests. Note: studies on population densities do show that this squirrel has higher densities in the more mature coniferous forests.

Douglas Squirrel Range Map of Canada

Douglas Squirrel Range Map Of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Description of Douglas Squirrel:

The names Douglas' squirrel and Douglas's squirrel are names that can be used when doing research on the Douglas Squirrel. The terms chickaree or pine squirrel can also be used but care must be given to make sure that you are not looking at the American red squirrel that is also uses those names.

Males and females don’t have any discernable differences in appearance. An adult Douglas Squirrel will range from 10.63 to 13.7 ins. (27 to 34.8 cm.) for the length of its body. Its tail will vary from 3.93 to 6.3 ins. (10 to 16 cm.) in length and its hind feet will be from 1.73 to 2.4 ins. (4.4 to 6 cm.) in length. Finally its weight will range from 5 to 11 oz. (141 to 312 g.)

The colouring of the Douglas Squirrels changes seasonally.

Their fur in the summer can vary from a greyish-brown to a reddish-brown colour on its flanks, back of its body and rear legs. While its chest, underside and front legs may vary in colour anywhere from a cream to light orange. 

The upper side of this species wide thick tail consists of a brown colour with orange hues. Further, the tail has black edging and tip. A black strip runs along the lower edge of its flanks from the middle of its body to its rear legs.

For its winter coat, the fur turns browner and the underside of its body turns greyer.

Douglas squirrels have sets of long stiff hairs (called vibrissae) located above and below their eyes, on their chin and nose, and on each forearm. These whiskers are touching receptors that are used to sense its environment.

The Douglas Squirrel does not migrate and like other squirrels does not hibernate. This territorial, energetic species is very active species all year long. It starts its day at dawn, and with the exception of severe storms and weather conditions it will keep busy till sunset. Time is spent foraging for food, collecting and storing food, building nests, arguing over territory and chattering to other squirrels.

This squirrel constructs dreys from twigs, mosses, lichens and shredded bark for use in the summer. They may on occasion use an abandoned bird’s nest. Look for these nests in the fork of a tree or further out on the branches.

Winter dens may be made from a natural depression or deserted woodpecker nest in the hollow, crevice, or hole of a tree.

This species will make underground winter nests that are located under caches of food.  

They will use a nest/den for rearing young, sleeping in at night, and righting out severe weather.

The Douglas squirrel can be very territorial and will maintain a territory of about 107,639.1 ft² (10,000 m².). Breeding pairs may winter together and will collectively protect that territory claimed. You may see groups of this type of squirrel together in the summer time but they are likely juveniles from a single litter.

This squirrel’s vision and sense of smell are good.  During mating and for warning of danger the Douglas squirrel has an assortment of calls with which they communicate with each other.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Douglas Squirrel:

The Douglas squirrel is considered a Granivore because it primarily forages on the seeds of conifer trees like the Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, and Shore Pine.

Even though they are a Granivore the Douglas squirrel still forages on a vast variety of foods that can be either plant or animal in origin. Forage material is primarily dependant upon it local, opportunity, and what seasonal food sources are available.

Seasonal plant foods from trees include items like fresh green leaves, fresh green coniferous needle, cambium (the woody material between the tree truck and bark), and stems. While additional plant material may consist of seeds from deciduous trees (like maple), grains, nuts (oak acorns & beech nuts), fruit (strawberries & plums), berries, or tree sap.

Forage that is of animal origin and mainly items of opportunity consist of small birds (mostly fledglings), birds’ eggs, millipedes, centipedes, mites and ticks.

The late summer and falls periods find this species harvesting and storing more food than it is capable of eating over the winter. At this time it will collects green coniferous cones from the tips of coniferous trees. Surprisingly, it will also collect and harvest mushrooms and fungus when found.

The Douglas squirrel does not have cheek pouches so it must collect and store each cone one by one. It is a scatter hoarder by nature which means that is will have cones hidden all over its territory and their location is randomly selected.

The strategy for cone harvesting is to store them in a damp place in order to maintain seed freshness through out the winter months. These caches of cones may be in a damp log or burrow which it may have to dig into the snow later in the winter.

This squirrel is quick to notice any unusual and potentially danger and capable of moving at high speed. Two defence mechanisms that aid to elude predation. Also they will not usually consume food at ground level as it hinders its ability to detect potential danger.

This squirrel has a habit of separating the seeds from the cones higher up in the same spot time and time again. Generations of squirrels may use this same location and after time a pile of cone scales builds up. These piles of refuse can accumulate to more than a meter across and be several meters high. The term midden can mean rubbish pile and accordingly this place of seed separation has also been dubbed the term “Midden”.

The strategy for fungi collection is quite different in that the squirrel will place the mushrooms in the fork or crotch of a tree and dry it out for later use in the winter.

Breeding and Reproduction of Douglas Squirrel:

Most of the Douglas squirrels rear young once a year, the primary season may start as early as January and last to as late as August. However, the normal or accepted breeding period is late February to late April or early June. A second breeding period can occur August or September but that is normally in the more southern regions of its range (US based specimens).

The courtship ritual for this squirrel is to call to each other and to chase each other around the base of trees that may be a noisy display that is wild with excitement. This display leads to the pair forming a bond and mating. Unlike some of the other squirrels this instance of squirrel only has one mate per mating season.

The gestation period for the Douglas Squirrel ranges from 36 to 40 days after which a litter that can range in size from 2 to 8 individuals is born in May-June. The average size of the litter is more in the line of 4-6 young and they are born in an undeveloped state. The newborns are born weighing 0.46 to 0.63 oz. (13-18 g.), naked, blind, and deaf: thus requiring constant care and feeding on behalf of the venter.

It takes these newborns about 18 days to grow hair/fur and 26 to 36 days for them to open their eyes.

The weaning process ranges from 6 to 9 weeks with 8 weeks being the accepted norm.

In mid-July to early August the young are about ½ to ⅔ size of an adult and will venture out of their nest and venture to the ground while maintaining close contact with their siblings and mother.

Independence for these juveniles is reached somewhere from 4 to 7 months of age but they continue to remain together as a family until December. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 8 to 9 months for males and females alike and most of the offspring will participate in the mating process next spring. Finally, they will reach the full size of an adult at around 8 to 9 months.

Status of Douglas Squirrel:

The Douglas Squirrel is listed is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern, 2008. Populations of this species may change as its food supply changes: but there are no known major threats to Douglas squirrel populations.

Predators of the Douglas Squirrel may include American martens, long-tailed weasels, bobcats, domestic cats, foxes, coyotes, northern goshawks, and larger owls.

This species is quick to get use to human presence. However, humans can have an impact on them by stealing their cashes of cones (for tree cultivation projects) and by cutting old growth forests. Despite these negative impacts, the populations of this squirrel do not appear to be affected by them.

 

American Red Squirrel - Tamlasclurus Hudsonicus

American Red Squirrel 
Photo By - Alan Schmierer - Flicker  

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the American Red Squirrel

The American red squirrel is one of three species of tree squirrel known as the pine squirrels. The other two species are the Douglas squirrel and the Mearns's squirrel which occurs in Mexico and not in Canada.

The American Red Squirrel has an extensive range south of the tree line in Canada’s provinces and territories. It essentially occupies all of Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, New Brunswick, Ontario, and British Columbia. It also can be found in most of Quebec, all of Manitoba except for a small section in its north east corner, most of Saskatchewan except for its south west corner, the northern half of Alberta, most of Yukon and NWT except for northern tip. The only province or territory with a small representation is where it is found on in Nunavut’s south west corner and it is not found in south-western British Columbia where the Douglas Squirrel resides, Vancouver Island, and the Cape Breton Islands.

The Red squirrel has one of the widest ranges of distribution for all of North American squirrels. With the exception of areas occupied by the Douglas Squirrel in BC, it is common to find them in most places that conifers forests exist. It should not be ruled out of deciduous and mixed forested areas as lately this squirrel has been extending its range to include hardwood forests.

Preference for this species may be for it to occupy coniferous and mixed forests where there is an abundance of coniferous seeds, fungi, and a dense interlocking forest canopy exists. However, it may also occupy parcels of woodland or forests, hedges consisting of mature trees, second-growth areas and large stands of mature trees in urban areas.

Examining some of Canada’s forest types:

  • Western North American Red Squirrels occur in stands of white spruce, black spruce, Douglas-fir and pine.
    For Alberta quaking aspen & balsam poplar stands with mixed white spruce or and black spruce are areas that they were found. They were also found in areas that were predominately jack pine along with occasional stands of white spruce.
  • Eastern North America red squirrels were plentiful in mature hardwood forests that has mature spruce, eastern hemlock or balsam fir. Preference in hardwood forests were for those that had of oak, hickory, beech, or walnut.
  • Finally, tamarack bogs and black spruce bogs may have American Red squirrels but these areas seemed to be only occupied for a short time by juvenile squirrels waiting to find a more suitable territory.

Seed production of the forest that this squirrel occupies seems to be the primary factor when considering the population densities of this specimen. A couple of study sites in British Columbia revealed that populations of red squirrels in stands of 20 year old stands of lodgepole pine that had not been thinned out were two to over five times the size of those populations that inhabited stands that had been thinned.

As a side note: 200 to 300 year of Douglas fir, 40 to 300 year old white fir,  and 150 to 200 year old Engelmann spruce seems to yield the highest return of seeds (cones) and I would expect to see higher population densities in these areas.

The home Range of the Red squirrel varies according to elevation, age, and habitat quality.

  • They are found at elevations from sea level and up to 2,500 ft (762 m).
  • More mature males and females of this species tend to occupy larger home ranges than juveniles do.
  • An example of habitat quality is demonstrated by the fact that the range of this squirrel will vary in size from 0.7 to 2.0 acres (0.3-0.8 ha) in lodgepole pine forests. In comparison, the home range of this species in stands of mixed hardwood-conifers will range from 6.5 to 11 acres (2.6-4.5 ha).

In comparison to other pine squirrels this variety is more territorial than the other two and actively defends its territory based on food criteria. What is meant here is that it will defend caches of food and a territory that contains its food supply.  

American Red Squirrel Range Map of Canada

American Red Squirrel Range Map Of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

 

Description of American Red Squirrel:

The names Red squirrel and American Red squirrel are names that can be used when doing research on the American Red Squirrel. The terms chickaree or pine squirrel can also be used but care must be given to make sure that you are not looking at the Douglas squirrel that is also uses those names. A Fairydiddle is a local term for the American Red Squirrel in West Virginia and a Boomer may besides this species and mean a Grey Squirrel.  

The physical looks of male and female Red Squirrels are virtually the same with no apparent differences. Their body size which is 30% smaller than that of a Grey Squirrel and it is larger than a Chipmunk. Both of these aspects are useful tools in identifying this species. But it should not rule out it being mistaken for a juvenile Eastern Fox Squirrel or Eastern Grey Squirrel. Although it is roughly the same size and has a somewhat similar colouring to the Douglas squirrel mistaken identity should not happen as the two species do not co-exist.

There are twenty five recognized subspecies of Red Squirrel and their dimensions are thought to vary according to geographic location (especially latitude). In general overall length of the American Red squirrel varies from 10.6 to 15.3 inches (27.0 to 38.5 cm.) with an average length of 12.9 inches (32.8 cm.). Note: that includes their tail that ranges from 3.6 to 6.2 inches (9.2 to 15.8 cm) in length. Its hind foot will vary from 1.38 to 2.25 inches (3.5 to 5.7 cm.) in length and its ears are .75 to 1.2 inches (1.9 to 3.1 cm) long. Finally, its skull is 1.65 to 2.0 inches (4.2 to 5.0 cm.) long. The weight of this specimen ranges from 6.93 to 9.95 oz. (197.3 to 282.2 g.) with an average weight of 7.5 oz. (212.97 g).

The colour of its fur can vary geographically. However in general terms the fur on its head, back and legs can range from  a reddish-brown to olive-green grey colour. Its chest and underbelly are an off white. The tail can be the anywhere from the colour of its body to almost a black colour. Another distinguishing feature is its whitish coloured ring around its eye. Most squirrels don’t have it and the colour of the eye ring on the Douglas Squirrel is more of a tan or creamy colour.  

The American Red Squirrel does not migrate and like other squirrels does not hibernate. This species is quite a territorial and energetic species that is very active species all year long. Its highest activity occurs about 2 hours after dawn and will keep busy till just before sunset. Time is spent foraging for food, collecting and storing food, building nests, arguing over territory and chattering to other squirrels.

Evolution has given this squirrel strong claws and hind legs. Its body is compact and muscular. These features yield it good speed and agility that they use to run around trees and bushes. Additionally, its senses of smell, sight, and hearing are quite good.  

This little guy can be quite vocal and is not shy about chastising intruders that come into their home range. They use calls along with scent markings to ward off potential invaders of their area. These vocalizations may take the form of a rattle, screech, growl, buzz, or chirp. Specifically a high pitched call signals an aerial predator and a harsh bark signals a land based predator.

Scent laden communicationis significant in proclaiming its territory and to discern the olfactory signatures of other males thus leaving a lasting and durable impression. Through this olfactory process the individual squirrel becomes known to its neighbours and it may actually reduce the need to chase an offender from their territory.

For the American Red Squirrel the decisive elements in choosing a nest-tree site are the diameter of the tree, branching characteristics and structure, and the opportunity to establish an escape route in the canopy. Like most squirrels this species has a preference for tree nests that are constructed out of natural tree cavities or deserted woodpecker holes and rarely construct or use a nest that is below ground level. When cavities are not available it will make a leaf or grass nest at a height of 6.6 to 66 feet (2 to 20 m) out of grass, moss, inner cambium, shredded bark leaves, feathers, and fur. Winter time may find them burrowing into the snow or using a discarded burrow made by another mammal.

Most nests are built within 98 ft. (30 m.) of food reserves. These nests are the basis for the squirrels’ shelter when severe winter conditions exist and serve as a home in which females’ rear their young. In the winter red squirrels will tunnel into deep snow in order to get to their food caches and escape severe weather.

Despite the high mortality rate of wild Red squirrels this specimen exhibits one of the longest survival rates of squirrels. Only 25% of American Red squirrels live longer than one year, it has a life expectancy of 2.3 years, however this species of squirrel can live to 8 years of age in the wild.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of American Red Squirrel:

The fact that the American Red squirrel is primarily considered a granivore is because it survives on a selective diet of conifer cones. And supporting date comes from the fact that it may consume up to 2/3 of the pine cone production in a given year. Even though they are a Granivore the American Red squirrel still forages on a vast variety of foods that can be either plant or animal in origin. Forage material is primarily dependant upon it local, opportunity, and what seasonal food sources are available.

Seasonal plant foods from trees include items like fresh green leaves, fresh green coniferous needles, cambium (the woody material between the tree truck and bark), roots, stems and flowers. While additional plant material may consist of seeds from deciduous trees (like maple and elm), grains, nuts (oak acorns & beech nuts), fruit (strawberries & plums), berries, or tree sap. Addition food may be obtained from plants like the Hazel, Cottonwood, Pyrola, Dogwood, and Spikenard.

Forage that is of animal origin and mainly items of opportunity consist of small birds (mostly fledglings) and birds’ eggs.  Aves preyed upon are the Red-breasted nuthatch, Pygmy nuthatch, Brown creeper, American yellow warbler and Dark-eyed junco. The young of other mammals like the White-footed mouse and the Eastern Cottontail are taken given the opportunity. Insects like millipedes, centipedes, mites and ticks along with invertebrates and small vertebrates may also be consumed.

Over 45 species of mushrooms, truffles, and fungi are collected and eaten by the Red Squirrel. The strategy for fungi collection is quite different in that the squirrel will clip off a mushroom and place it in the fork or crotch of a tree. The sun will then dry it out for the squirrel to cache and consume later in the winter.

For unknown reasons this squirrel may or may not steal food from other squirrels and this habit is not determined by individuals but by local populations of squirrels. Example: The Red squirrels in the Yukon Territory of Canada almost never steal another’s cache  The Mt. Graham Red Squirrels in the Pinaleño Mountains of Arizona will swipe others food 97% of the time. And in Vermont liberating another squirrel’s cache occurs about 25% of the time.

The Red Squirrel commonly collects large quantities of food and stores it for consumption later. Squirrels in the western part of Canada generally store their food in one central location in what is called larderhoarding. Out in eastern Canada (specifically New Brunswick) the Red Squirrels there store their food in small amounts and in a lot of places. This is called scatterhoarding.

The sites for these caches of food may be located stored at the base of a tree, tree cavity, a fallen tree, under rocks, or quite simply in a pile at the base of a tree. Like the Douglas squirrel, the American Red stores their cones in damp locations in order to keep them fresh. Fungi are stored in dry location.  They use their gifted sense of smell to relocate these stored hoards of food even under 13ft. (4 m) of snow through out the winter.

Breeding and Reproduction of American Red Squirrel:

The breeding period for the American Red Squirrel is defined to be 105 days long and can have one or two mating periods in it. The Province of Quebec records two periods. The first period is in March-April when most females breed and the second is in June-July. As you move further north there is only one breeding season and it is from mid-January to mid-February. The second mating period seems to be more prevalent in the warmer climates of its range.

Female specimens in good health tend to mate more often and with success than Red Squirrels in poor health.

When the female of this species enters estrus it will be only for one day, her ovulation is of a spontaneous nature, and conception happens with a few hours of breeding. Before estrus arrives, the female leaves her territory in what is believed to be a display to show males that she is about to come into estrus. When she does become receptive, males through the use of calls and chases will drive off other subordinate males from the females’ territory. The winning male will then chase the female. Usually it is the female red squirrel that chooses her mate and interbreeding is not a factor in the process. The female initiates the act of breeding and the duration of this process only lasts a few minutes with it being terminated by the male. The female may continue to mate with a singe male or she may mate with as many as to 16 males that day. Once she is pregnant she will undergo a gestation period of 31-35 days.

The female Red squirrel is the lone provider for the coming litter and she will prepare maternal nest(s) within her territory for her young. Multiple nests are constructed because the female in the rearing process may move her young from nest to nest.

The litters of young squirrels are born in April and early May. The size of the litter will range from 1 to 8 individuals, with 3.97 young being the average litter size. The offspring at first will require constant care and feeding by their mother because they come into the world deaf, blind, pink, hairless, and weigh about 0.25 oz. (7.08 g.). However they do possess whiskers and chain hair.

The young squirrels grow quickly at a rate of 1.8 g/day though out the duration of their nursing and developmental milestones are as follows. Their external auditory opening becomes apparent at 18 days, their eyes open in 26 to 35 days, and it will take 40 days to fully develop their fur coats. They come out of the maternal nest at around day 42 but will continue to nurse from their mother for her full 70 days of lactation. Once the females’ lactation period ends the young are forced out of their mother’s territory and it is up to them to establish a range of their own.

It will not be until day 125 that all of the juveniles’ teeth are developed and they have reached full adult size. It is not often that mothers give their young caches of food and territory. For the balance of juvenile squirrels (85%) they must find their own range and begin to build their own caches of food in order to get themselves through the coming winter.

Most juveniles establish territories within 492 ft. (150 m.) of their mothers’ range. But they have entered a tough world where they have to fight their siblings, or the young of other females for the right to occupy that territory.

Male and female American Red Squirrels reach sexual maturity at 1 year of age. While some females will breed for their first time at this time others will delay the breeding process till their second year. The ability of a female to reproduce declines from the age of 4 onwards.

Status of American Red Squirrel:

Red squirrels are prevalent in Canada and are not vulnerable or at risk throughout most of their range in Canada, as such it is listed is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern, 2008

Birds of Prey are the main predators of the Red Squirrel.

The list of these birds is quite extensive and don’t limit themselves to just taking young squirrels. That list is not limited to but does include American kestrels, Bald eagles, Cooper's hawks, Great Gray Owls, Great Horned Owl, Northern Goshawk, Northern harriers, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned hawks, and American Crow.

The list of mammals that will take an American red squirrel when the opportunity arises are the Canadian Lynx, Bobcat, Red fox, Gray Fox, Coyote, Wolf, Fishers, Pine Martin, Mink, Weasel, cats, and dogs

When handling a Red squirrel gloves and extra care should always be taken as they can become the home to a vast variety of parasites and diseases that live inside the host as well as parasites that lives on the outside of the host.

Diseases that they are susceptible to and in cases can transfer to homo sapiens are 6 forms of Tularemia, 2 forms of fungal lung infections, single celled protests, two forms of brain viruses - California encephalitis virus and Silverwater Virus, and an incurable virus attacks the central nervous system the Powassan virus

Parasites inside the host include 9 species of roundworm or threadworm (nematode), 9 species of tapeworms (Cestoda) and flatworms (Hymenolepis).

Parasites that can live on the outside of the host include 31 species of mites, ticks, and chiggers (Glycyphagidae and Acarina), 25 species of fleas, the larvae of botflies, and sucking lice.  

Northern Flying Squirrel - Glaucomys sabrinus

Northern Flying Squirrel

 

 

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Northern Flying Squirrel

There are two types of Flying squirrels in Canada.

The Northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) and the smaller southern flying squirrel (G. volans).

The Northern Flying Squirrel has a large range south of the tree line in Canada’s provinces and territories. It does not reside in Newfoundland nor Cape Breton Island. But it does occupy all of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, New Brunswick, Ontario, and British Columbia. It also can be found in most of southern Quebec, all of Manitoba except for a small section in its south west corner, most of northern Saskatchewan, almost all of Alberta except for a small portion in its south east corner It also occupies most of the Yukon and NWT except for their northern tips and in Nunavut it has a small representation in its south west corner.

Prime habitat, for this flying squirrel is where it is cool and moist. It likes a mature forest with lots of obstacles that are either standing or on the ground. With that in mind, habitat preference is given to coniferous stands of spruce, fir, and mixed hemlocks. Mixed forests of coniferous trees and deciduous growth of beech or maple may also be utilized as well as stands of white spruce mixed in with aspen.

With a fondness for dead trees and trees that have a large-diameter. Northern flying squirrels like to build their nests in the cavities of these types of trees. Mature forests with their larger and more abundant tree cavities are able provide more and better nesting sites that fit this criteria. However, the Flying Squirrel will make use of leaf nests, twig nests or underground burrows when cavities and tree hollows are not available.

This squirrel is not like other squirrels in that it is more sociable and nests are shared by family groups of 4 to 10 adults and juveniles especially in the winter months. Could it be possible that because of the extra surface area that this squirrel has, that it needs to huddle with others in order to share warmth in the winter.

This squirrel also has a tendency to move a lot from nest to nest. The only exception is when this species of squirrel raises their young.

Northern Flying Squirrel Range Map of Canada

Northern Flying Squirrel Range Map Of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

 

Description of Northern Flying Squirrel:

Maybe the Flying Squirrel should be more appropriately named the gliding squirrel. That is because they don’t fly, they glide. This species of squirrel has a fold of skin (called a patagium) that extends from its body and goes from the bottom of their front legs to the base of their rear legs. This extra skin increases its surface area and allows it to float on the air when it jumps from a tree top. They demonstrate good manoeuvrability while in flight and are able to make a 90° turn while gliding distances that generally range 16.4 to 82 ft. (5 – 25m). Females generally glide about 16.4 ft. (5 meters) less than males and glides of 147.6 ft. (45 meters) have been observed. Gliding with an angle of descent of 30° to 40° is accomplished in combination of its forward propulsion, flattening its tail, and by extending its legs outward from its body to maximize the surface area of its patagium. Using this method it travels forward about 2 feet for every 1 foot it descends. It is able to also descend (parachute) itself vertically by extending its legs downward from its body and make the patagium form a cup (parachute).

They can be quite nimble in flight but once on the ground they are quire ponderous as they walk. Because of this they tend to hide instead of running from danger should they be on the ground when danger presents itself.

Patagium

Flying Squirrel Patagium
 

Adult northern flying squirrels are 9.8 to 14.6 inches (25 to 37 cm) long and vary in weight from 3.9 to 8.11 oz. (110 to 230 grams).  Colouring of this specimen’s fur is a light brown or cinnamon on top, grey side body colouring, and  a light white colour underneath.

The Northern Flying squirrel is a nocturnal tree dweller that is active year long from 2 hours after daylight fades to 1 hour before morning daylight. Evolution for this specimen has given it large eyes to better see at night and a flat tail that aids its flight both aero dynamically and as a steering rudder.

The northern flying squirrel does not have a seasonally nor a local migration. It does not hibernate nor does it enter a lethargic state.

Communication for this species is in the form of a soft low chirp, a distress cluck. Scent and touch to are also communication portals with other members of the same species. Its senses of hearing, smell, vision, and touch are considered to be excellent.

Most wild northern flying squirrels have a life expectancy of less than four years.

 

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Northern Flying Squirrel:

For a tree dweller it spends substantial time foraging on the ground. The Northern Flying squirrel is a little different from most other squirrels because most of their diet is in the form of lichens, mushrooms and other fungi whereas other squirrels only use these sources of food to supplement their diets.

Supplementary food sources for the Flying squirrel comes in the form of mast-crop nuts, seeds, tree sap, insects, carrion, bird eggs and nestlings, buds, fruit and flowers.

It is proven that the species does cache food for when supplies are lower but it has not been proven whether or not the northern flying squirrels caches food for the winter. It may be possible that lichens may be its source of winter forage.

Food hoards in the form of lichens and seeds are generally not at ground level but rather in the cavities of trees as well as in its nest.

This squirrels’ ability to locate truffles through its sense of smell highlights its good sense of smell. Mental dexterity of the species is also demonstrated by its ability to find truffles. It seems to be able to recognize the clues of coarse woody debris, a decaying log, and have a understanding of where the truffles should be by using these clues.

Breeding and Reproduction of Northern Flying Squirrel:

It was a general conception that the Northern Flying Squirrel only mated once a year but recent studies in Ontario and later in New Brunswick have documented two litters per year being born.

Details for the mating habits of this species are quite sketchy. What we do know is that the two courtship - breeding seasons are February-May and July. The gestation period is 37-42 days after conception and litters of 1-6 offspring (average 4-5) are born in March to early July, and late August to early September. It is not known if pairs retain the same mates each breeding season.

The male does not participate in rearing the young. For these squirrels the offspring are born helpless, deaf, blind, toes fused, and they have a cylindrical (not flat) tail. The offspring will weigh 0.18 to 2.1 oz. (5 – 6 g.) at this point and will require constant care until about day 40 when they will leave the nest.

Development of the young sees their toes separate around day six and their eyes will open at about 31 days.  The young are weaned at about two months but they will remain for another month with their mother. That puts full independent for the offspring at 3 months of age.

Sexually maturity is not well documented and different sources listed it anywhere from 6 months to a year.  What is known is that they will breed the next spring following their birth. So perhaps the citation(s) of 210 days for sexual maturity may be the best hypothesis.

Recent genetic evidence in southern Ontario has provided evidence that the Northern Flying squirrel is breeding with the Southern Flying squirrel in areas where it co-exists in the same geographic area with each other.

Status of Northern Flying Squirrel:

There are two subspecies of Flying Squirrel that are listed as endangered. The Carolina Northern flying squirrel (G. s. coloratus) and the Virginia Northern flying squirrel (G. s. fuscus), of which neither are found in Canada.

The Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern (2008). Justification for this classification is based on its broad range and it is thought to be secure throughout most of its territories with no major threats in sight.


Birds of Prey are the main predators of the Red Squirrel.

The list of these birds is quite extensive and don’t limit themselves to just taking young squirrels. That list is not limited to but does include American kestrels, Bald eagles, Cooper's hawks, Great Gray Owls, Great Horned Owl, Northern Goshawk, Northern harriers, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned hawks, Eastern Screech Owl and the Northern Spotted Owl.

A partial list of mammals that will take an American red squirrel, when the opportunity arises, are the American martens,

Canadian Lynx, Bobcat, Red fox, Gray Fox, Coyote, Wolf, Fishers, Pine Martin, Mink, Weasel, cats, and dogs

Although the list is quite extensive you are reminded that the Northern Flying Squirrel is a nocturnal creature and it is those predators that are active at night (like owls) that will prey on them the most. In fact they are a key component in the diet of the Northern Spotted Owl and the Eastern Screech owl. It is estimated that a pair of Northern Spotted owls will consume up to 500 flying squirrels a year.

Southern Flying Squirrel - Glaucomys volans

Southern Flying Squirrel
Southern Flying Squirrel - By MimiMiaPhotography (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Southern Flying Squirrel

There are two types of Flying squirrels in Canada.

The southern flying squirrel or called assapan (G. volans) and its larger relative the Northern Flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus). Here in Canada, the Southern Flying Squirrel does not have a large representation but it does exist in most of Nova Scotia and some of the southern portions of New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. In those regions where it co-exists with the Northern Flying Squirrel, it is able to out compete the Northern Flying  squirrel.

This species of squirrel can be found in south-eastern Canada’s deciduous or mixed forests. Stands of seed-producing hardwood trees, like maple, beech, hickory, oak, and poplar are preferred. However, forest stands of mixed hardwood tree and conifer trees may be utilized but these types of forests generally don’t have as high a population density.

Like other members of the squirrel family the Southern Flying squirrel likes to construct its nests in the natural cavities of mature trees or hollows created by woodpeckers and if there are not enough natural sites it will construct a leaf or twig nest in the crotch of a tree. In general its use of nest types are leaf nests as a temporary refuge or resting area in the summer and tree cavities are used primarily in the winter and by females rearing its young.

The number of nesting sites in a given area may be a good clue as to the sex of the species that is present. Males of the species tend to occupy an area of 2.45 to 16.0 hectares while an adult female will maintain a home range of 1.95 to 7.2 hectares. Juvenile members of the species may occupy only 0.61 hectares.

It is noted that the female will have a lower number of nests while it is rearing its young. These nest sites can be used as a defining feature of its home range as nests-dens tend to be built around the perimeter of its home range and also tend to be located away for openings in the forest.

The thought behind these differences in home ranges are cited as the male may occupy a larger home range in order to increase its chances of running into a potentially receptive female. But it should also be noted that a female rearing its young will increase its home range by as much as 70% after it has finished rearing its offspring.

The high number of nests and dens that it tends to build may be driven by the fact that this squirrel can be driven from its nesting site by larger cavity-nesting birds.

Like the Northern Flying squirrel this species is very tolerant of other Southern Flying squirrels and will share its home range with members of the same species. For this reason home ranges of the Southern Flying squirrel may demonstrate significant areas or overlap. It also practices communal nesting in that it will share its nest with other members of the same species especially during the winter months. This practice of using communal nesting conserves body warmth and can save 30 percent of its energy. 

Southern Flying Squirrel Range Map of Canada

 Southern Flying Squirrel Range Map Of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Description of Southern Flying Squirrel:

Maybe the Flying Squirrel should be more appropriately named the gliding squirrel. That is because they don’t fly, they glide. This species of squirrel has a fold of skin (called a patagium) that extends from its body and goes from the bottom of their front legs to the base of their rear legs. This extra skin increases its surface area and allows it to float on the air when it jumps from a tree top. They demonstrate good manoeuvrability while in flight and are able to make a 90° turn while gliding distances that generally range 16.4 to 82 ft. (5 – 25m). Females generally glide about 16.4 ft. (5 meters) less than males and glides of 147.6 ft. (45 meters) have been observed. Gliding with an angle of descent of 30° to 40° is accomplished in combination of its forward propulsion, flattening its tail, and by extending its legs outward from its body to maximize the surface area of its patagium. Using this method it travels forward about 2 feet for every 1 foot it descends. It is able to also descend (parachute) itself vertically by extending its legs downward from its body and make the patagium form a cup (parachute).

They can be quite nimble in flight but once on the ground they are quire ponderous as they walk. Because of this they tend to hide instead of running from danger should they be on the ground when danger presents itself.

Male and female adult Southern flying squirrels look alike and are 8.3 to 10.1 inches (21.2 to 25.7 cm) long. They will vary in weight from 1.6 to 3.0 oz. (46 to 86 grams).  Colouring of this specimen’s fur is grey-brown on top, darker side body colouring, a light white colour underneath and grey tail

The Southern Flying squirrel is a nocturnal tree dweller that is active year long from 2 hours after daylight fades to 1 hour before morning daylight. Evolution for this specimen has given it large eyes to better see at night and a flat tail that aids its flight both aero dynamically and as a steering rudder. Adaptations consisting of whiskers on their chin, cheeks, and ankles aid them in finding their way along tree trunks at night.

Its senses of hearing, smell, vision, and touch are considered to be excellent.

The Southern flying squirrel does not have a seasonally nor a local migration. It does not hibernate but unlike its relative the Northern Flying squirrel it will enter a state of torpor in the cold winter months.

Most flying squirrels probably die in their first year of life but for survivors their life expectancy is 5-6 years. 

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Southern Flying Squirrel:

This nocturnal tree dweller is primarily considered to be an omnivore in that its diet consists of plant and animal foods in origin.

Foods that are of plant origin include leaves, flowers, wood, bark, stems, grains, nuts (acorn, beech, and hickory), seeds, berries and fruits. It is particularly fond of acorn and hickory nuts.

This species of squirrel was cited by Dolan and Carter – 1977 to be the most “carnivorous” squirrel.  Foods of animal origin are consumed at their peak and will include insects, junebugs, moths, young mice, birds (especially eggs and young) and carrion.

Other forms of nutritional value may include lichen, fungus or mushrooms.

They will store or cache nuts from trees like acorns of the red and white oak, hickory and beech for furture winter consumption

Breeding and Reproduction of Southern Flying Squirrel:

Not a lot is really known about the breeding habits of the Southern Flying Squirrel. What we do know starts with the fact that both members of the sexes look alike.

They practice a polygynous mating system in that the male will mate with multiple females but females’ only mate with a single male in a mating session.

This species of squirrel mates twice a year with its peak mating seasons in the months from January to April and from June to August. Populations living here in Canada will mate later in the season(s) than those in the southern parts of their range.

Following conception, the female will have a gestation period of about 40 days before delivering a litter that could be from 2 to 7 newborns but the Canadian average is 3 to 4 offspring. Peak birthing periods for Canadian female populations are April-May and late summer in the north

Male members of the species take a free ride and do not help out in rearing their offspring.

Newborn flying squirrels will weigh about 0.12 oz. (3.3.5 grams) at birth and are born hairless, blind, deaf, helpless and none of their senses are developed. The only thing that seems to have any development on them are their whiskers. The timing of their development is as follows. Their ear canals will open at 2 to 6 days, begin to develop fur at about 7 days and open their eyes at 24 to 30 days. This is rather slow development for a small rodent and the mother will have to tend to all their needs in the nest during the periods noted. In fact she will continue to nurse her young for 65 days after which time the juveniles are weaned and will be left to be on their own.

From day 30 to day 65 the juveniles must begin to become self sufficient. During this time of their lives, they will practice leaping and gliding and at around two and a half months of age. Their gliding skills will become perfected and they will be of age to leave the nest and fend for themselves.

From day 65 to day 120 they must forage and fend for themselves. They are considered fully independent at that 120 day mark. Note: youngsters from the second litter generally over winter with their mother in their 1st year of existence.

Juvenile Southern Flying squirrels are considered sexual mature at 12 months but some females may breed as early as 9 months of age. First year adults usually take part in the first breeding session (spring) of the following year and may not breed in the second session (summer).

Status of Southern Flying Squirrel:

The Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans) is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern (2008). Justification for this classification is based on its broad range and it is thought to be secure throughout most of its territories with no overall major threats foreseen.

Birds of Prey are the main predators of the Red Squirrel.

The list of these birds is quite extensive and don’t limit themselves to just taking young squirrels. That list is not limited to but does include American kestrels, Bald eagles, Cooper's hawks, Great Gray Owls, Great Horned Owl, Northern Goshawk, Northern harriers, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned hawks and the Eastern Screech Owl.

A partial list of mammals that will take an American red squirrel, when the opportunity arises, are the American martens,

Canadian Lynx, Bobcat, Red fox, Gray Fox, Coyote, Wolf, Fishers, Pine Martin, Mink, Racoons, Weasel, cats, and dogs

Although the list is quite extensive you are reminded that the Southern Flying Squirrel is a nocturnal creature and it is those predators that are active at night (like owls) that will prey on them the most followed up by those mammals that are agile enough to climbs trees (like cats, racoons, bobcats).

Logging activities and the clearing of old growth forest stands can cause habitat loss not only in forage material but also for good nesting sites that this species desires.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel - Callospermophilus lateralis

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel
Photo - By Oz tangles (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

In Canada the Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel is quite commonly found in the South-eastern Rocky Mountains in the Provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.

This species has a preference for habitats that are at the higher elevations of 4,002 to 13,009 ft. (1,220-3,965 m.) where it will inhabit the drier areas that could be at the base of a mountain or on a mountain slope. Within those areas, cover and foraging material are the key factors in selecting a home range.

These home ranges will be chiefly comprised of tangled shrubs and thorny bushes, or large areas that are covered chiefly with trees and lots of undergrowth. Other areas that it use are abundant with stumps, rocks, and / or fallen logs. Foraging communities that it associates with are comprised of shrubs, grasses, herbs and flowering plants.

Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel Range Map of Canada

 Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

Description of Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel:

A quick look of the photo of the golden-mantled ground squirrel and one would think that it is that of a Chipmunk. However this squirrel is physically about 1/3 larger than a Chipmunk and it does not have any facial stripes. However an evolutionary development for this squirrel is that like the Chipmunk it has cheek pouches that permits it to carry food back to its nest while running at full speed on all fours.

An adult Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel will range from 9.1 to 11.8 ins. (23 to 30 cm.) for the length of its body and average 10.8 in. (27.5 cm). Most adults have an average weight of 13.3 oz. (276 g.) but can range from 4.2 to 13.9 oz. (120 to 394 g.)

This non-migratory species of squirrel hibernates from late summer through early spring and is primarily active at lower elevations from March to November and in elevations higher up this period of activity shortens. The shortened period of activity applies to area of higher amounts of snowfall as well.

The Golden-mantled ground squirrel will build up its fat reserves in the summer and fall in order to survive its winter hibernation and will also store a cache of food in its burrow for when it wakes up in the spring. The burrows of this squirrel are shallow and can be dug up to 30 metres (98 ft) in length. They will hide the openings of its burrow / nest / den in a hollow log, in a stump, under a log, under a tree root or under a rock or in a rock crevice.

From its head down over its shoulders it has a golden-red colour. Note that males of the species have a brighter red colouring in this area. Similar to a chipmunk it has one white stripe that extends horizontally down its body with by two black stripes on each side. Chipmunks have a white stripe through their eyes whereas the Golden-mantled ground squirrels’ eye has a white coloured ring surrounding it.

The rest of its body is a grey, brown or buff colour except for its belly and part of its flanks that are a white or yellow-grey colour. The top of its tail is brown-black and the underside is a reddish brown colour. In the winter its fur will turn greyer in colour.

The average lifespan of a wild Golden-Mantled squirrel is 7 years of age.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel:

The Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel is considered to be omnivorous. Because it not only consumes seeds, nuts and berries. It will also forage on insects, animal matter and underground fungi.

While the nuts of the Pinus pine are a dietary staple for this squirrel; nuts, acorns, seeds, forbs, flowers, bulbs, fruit, shrubs, roots and leafy greens are other types of plant material that it will consume. Animal matter will consist of adult and larval insects (like spiders, insects, centipedes, mites, ticks), birds and eggs, voles, yellow-pine chipmunks, lizards, carrion and road-kills of the same species.

Proof of their good sense of smell is demonstrated by their ability to detect and dig up underground fungi. A single study reported that underground fungus comprised 65% of their summer diet and 90% of its fall diet

Breeding and Reproduction of Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel:

Female Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels have only one estrous cycle per year that occurs after the female comes out of hibernation in the spring. The males come out of hibernation about 2 to 3 weeks before the females do and will compete with each other in order to form large territorial boundaries.  Because the female will likely breed with the male of the territory that she is in. The males will endeavour to create large territories in order to be able to breed with as many females as he can for when the females begin to emerge in the months of March to May.

Gestation lasts 26-33 days following conception and from May to late June the females are producing litters of 2 to 8 (average is 4 to 6) altricial newborns that weigh about 0.22 oz. (6.26 g). These newborns have almost no control over their body positions and except for their whiskers and hairs on their head the young are hairless, their toes are fused together, and they are deaf and blind. It takes about a week for them to grow enough fur to distinguish their marking and be able to control their body positions. By the second week they open their ear canals, separate their toes and their teeth start to emerge. Newborn development continues and around 20 to 30 days their upper incisors erupt and they open their eyes and it is also now that they are weaned off of mother’s milk.

It is now time for the young to emerge from the natal burrow and feed on solid foods.

Taking care of the litter from the confines of the natal burrow was the female’s sole responsibility as males do not participate at all in the rearing of the litter. The female will now gradually stop caring for her young over the next 2 to 3, the pups will have reached 25% of their adult body size and the mother becomes hostile towards her offspring.

The pups are now on their own and for those that possess the skills to survive they will participate in next year’s breeding activities and can look forward to a life expectancy of 7 years in the wild.

Status of Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel:

The Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern (2008). Justification for this classification is based on its broad range and it is thought to be secure throughout most of its territories with no overall major threats foreseen.

Predators of this species include snakes, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, striped skunks, weasels, bears and red-tailed hawks, Northern goshawks. 

 

Cascade Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel - Callospermophilus saturatus'

Cascade Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel
Photo By K.lee. Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1139584

 

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

The Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel is much like Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. It is so similar that some consider this species to be one. In Canada it is separated from the Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel by the Columbia River and is found predominately on the dry side of the Cascade Mountains of British Columbia.

This species prefers habitats that provide lots of cover. Cover could be in the form of brush, logs, or trees. It is commonly found in alpine habitats, coniferous forests, pine woodlands, sagebrush, and open meadows.. It may also inhabit the rock piles that accumulate at the base of a cliff, chute, or mountain slope. Higher up in elevation it can be found in areas of stunted windblown trees growing near the mountain’s tree line.

Description of the Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel:

Like the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel the Cascade golden-mantled Ground Squirrels closely resembles a chipmunk in looks. It differs from the chipmunk in that it is larger in size and the white strip bordered by two black stripes on each side of its body stops at its shoulder instead of continuing onto its cheek. From its head down over its shoulders it has a reddish-orange colour. Chipmunks have a white stripe through their eyes whereas the Cascade Golden-mantled ground squirrels’ eye has a white coloured ring surrounding it.

The rest of its body is a grey, brown or buff colour except for its belly, feet, and tail are a pale yellow-brown colour. The top of its tail is brown-black.

There are no significant differences between males and females of the species. This ground squirrel has an overall length of

11.3 to 12.4 in. (28.7 to 31.5 cm) with 12 in. (30.5 cm) being the average. Its weight will vary according to the season. For example it will weigh about 7.0 oz.(200 g) when it comes out of hibernation in the spring. It will spend the summer putting on weight and will reach a hibernation weight of about 10.6 oz. (300 g,) in the fall.

This non-migratory species of squirrel will hibernate alone in its underground burrow from late summer through to early spring and is primarily active during the spring and summer months. This energy saving state of hibernation will send them into a deep torpor that drops its body temperature to a few degrees above freezing and slows its metabolic rate to about five percent of its summer rate.

The Cascade Golden-mantled Ground squirrel have very good senses of sight and auditory perception. It detects peril primarily by spotting approaching predators. Individuals will often sit on a stump or log and look for predators. Some are given to the idea that members of this species use body posturing as a visual indicator and means of communication to warn of danger. Vocal alarms even by other mammals are known to cause individuals to dive into their burrows.

Little is known about some factors of the Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. Factors like; some scientists believe that this species may live in colonies. However, it generally exhibits a low population density so that detail is hard to determine. Also, we do know that it has lived in the wild for 4 years but the actual life expectancy and average lifespan of the species is really unknown.

Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel Range Map of Canada

Cascade Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel Range Map of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel:

The Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel is active during the day and forages on the ground primarily consuming fungi and plant material. The balance between the two is determined by the type habitat and the foraging material there.

Plant material may consist of green vegetation, leaves, dandelion flowers, tubers, fruits, and seeds, Seed types could be pine cones that have been dropped by Douglas squirrels, lupine seeds, or the berries of salal, huckleberry, and mountain ash.

Depending on its habitat 44% to 63% may consist of fungi, particularly in the autumn months.

Additionally this squirrel may consume road-kill.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel:

It is thought that the males’ interest and strategy in mating actually begins in the fall when males enter into hibernation later than females do. The conception is that males do this in order to see where the females’ hibernation burrows for the winter are. This allows the male to remember where the females will be emerging in the spring and to determine a breeding territory.

This species begins to emerge from hibernation anywhere from mid-April to mid-May. With male adults emerging 1 to 2 weeks before yearlings and females emerge. Breeding activity for this species is timed to coincide with their emergence from hibernation. Knowing where the females’ burrows are the males will establish and guard a breeding territory. Then wait for the female to emerge and begin estrous. It is known that most females will copulate with the male who is guarding her territory and the males will breed with as many females as he can.

Females have a gestation period of 28 days and will give birth to one altricial litter/year of 3-5 pups (average of four) in a natal underground burrow.

The young come into the world at only 2.1 oz. (6 g.) but in about 36 days they will weigh 3.0 oz. (85 g.) and it is time for them to make their first appearance from the natal burrow. Normally only three pups survive to emerge and up to this point, their mother has been giving them care by nursing, grooming, and protection with no help from the male. But times are about to change for although she will maintain a close eye on them watching for danger and warning them. But she is now beginning to wean them and in a short week they will be weaned.

At about 2 months old the juveniles will leave the natal burrow in July to early August and establish their own home range. The distance that they travel is usually about 984.25 ft (300) meters from the natal burrow.

Adult members of the species (depending on sex) go into hibernation around mid-August to late September. However juveniles remain active and don’t start to hibernate until November and early December.

Juveniles reach adult size and are capable of breeding at 10 months of age but studies have shown that 50 to 100% of the females breed but only 10% of the males participate in the mating process their first spring.

Status of the Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel:

The Cascade Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern (2008). Justification for this classification is based on its broad range and it is thought to be secure throughout most of its territories with no overall major threats foreseen.

Since this species is only found in a small portion of British Columbia. In 1998, the province put this species on the provincial blue list for species that are vulnerable or sensitive. The next year a report stated that it not appear to be at risk, however more information was required to determine its overall status. For a lack of information that pertains to its population trends and potential threats. This species remains on the provincial blue list. Potential threats that need further investigation pertain to timber harvesting, road construction, and competition with other rodents, specifically the Columbian ground squirrel/

Predation of this species comes from raptors and land based predators.

Known raptors include Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Great horned owls, Merlins, and Long-eared Owls.

Land based predators include Coyotes, Red foxes, Long-tailed weasels, American martens, and Bobcats.

Franklin's Ground Squirrel - Poliocitellus fraklinili

Fanklin's Ground Squirrel

Photo By Ceasol (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Franklin’s Ground Squirrel

In Canada the Franklin’s Ground Squirrel can commonly be found in portions of the following provinces.

  • A very small portion in the south-west corner of Ontario
  • Southern Manitoba
  • Central Saskatchewan
  • Central Alberta

This species of squirrel has a strong preference for dense vegetative cover along the perimeter of woodlands or marshes. It will avoid areas of short grass and its preference for tall grass is demonstrated as you will find it along:

  • Marsh edges
  • Areas of open land or pasture
  • Wild shrub and tree hedges that border a road or field.
  • Transitional edges of land from areas of woodland or forest to fields
  • The strips of grass and weeds along railroad right-of-ways and roadsides that are not cut more than once a year or have had herbicide treatments.

Because of their liking for tall grasses and dense vegetation this species is not often seen.

In addition to tall grass this species needs a soil structure that allows it to dig deep well drained burrows that act as insulation against hot and cold conditions. With this in mind you will find this species burrowing into the steep sides of river and ditch embankments or the berm of a highway or railroad rights-of-way.

Burrows typically have two or three entrances and are the domicile to only one or two squirrels during the spring, summer, and winter. The burrow will have a number of side shafts that lead to food storage areas, escape routes, latrines, and the actual nesting area will be lined with dried vegetation. These tunnels will be about 3.1 in. (8.0 cm.) in diameter and runs into the ground about 17 in. (43 cm.).

Franklin's Ground Squirrel Range Map of Canada

 Franklins Ground Squirrel Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Description of Franklin’s Ground Squirrel:

Some sources cite the Franklin’s Squirrel to be very similar to the Eastern Grey Squirrel. I personally don’t see the great likeness as it is shorter, its tail is not as bushy, its ears are short and ovate and its claws are longer. As far as colouring goes the Franklin’s squirrel is not as grey nor is it black like the Eastern Grey. Its colouring is more of a brownish grey colour on its body and its head and tail are what I would call black with white streaks that make those portions of its body appear to be an off grey. The underside of its body is yellowish white while its feet are pale grey,

Size wise, adult members of this species will measure 14 to 16 ins. (36 to 41 cm) overall including its tail that measures 4.3 to 5.9 in. (11 to 15 cm). Males weigh more that females and will weigh 13 oz. (370 g) in the spring, and up to 34 oz. (950 g) when it comes time for hibernation in the fall. The spring time weight of a female is only 2 oz. lighter at 11 oz. (320 g.) when it emerges from hibernation. What is significantly notable is that the fall weight will only weigh 27 oz. (760 g.) in the fall.

Like other members of the animal kingdom populations cyclically rise and fall with this species exhibiting a 4 to 6 year cycle. Additionally this species of squirrel primarily active mainly during the day but it is not readily visible because it spends more than 90% of its time below ground level.

A review of the scent glands of this species indicates that scent communication may play and important role for this squirrel. It uses small glands that are located at the corners of its mouth to acknowledge other members of the same species. It also has a number of glands that run from its shoulders down to its pelvis. It is thought that these glands are used to mark burrows. Both males and females have three large glands, one above and one on each side of its anus. These glands produce a musky odour and are used during the breeding season,

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Franklin’s Ground Squirrel:

The Franklin's ground squirrel feeds on food of both plant and animal origin. Its diet appears to be seasonal in that it will forage primarily on vegetation in the spring and late fall. But during the early summer it will consume a larger percentage of meat and eggs.

Plant material may consist of roots, new shoots, and grasses in the spring. As summer comes it will shift its diet to leaves and flowers. Finally later on the season it will consume fruits and hard-shelled seeds as they become available.

 Vegetation consumed includes grasses, mustard, dandelion, strawberry, thistle, stinging nettle, red-berried elder, white clover, and wild peas, as well as garden vegetables.

Seed mater may consist of corn, oats or wheat.

Animal material consumed ranges from including beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, ants, small birds, full grown mallard ducks, deer mice, young rabbits / hares, fish, frogs, toads, birds' or ducks' eggs, and even other ground squirrels.

Breeding and Reproduction of Franklin’s Ground Squirrel:

The timing of the breeding season for the Franklin’s Ground Squirrel is timed to coincide with their emergence from hibernation and ends by Mid-April or June. Courtship of females at this time is one of great rivalry amongst the males and successful males will often share the female’s burrow during this period.

The gestation period of this species averages 28 days following which successful mothers will give birth primarily in May or June to their only litter of the year. Litter sizes are 2 to13 (average 8) altricial pups. Development of the youngsters progresses as follows:

  • Day 10 fuzzy hair begins to show.
  • Day 18 – 20 their eyes open.
  • Day 30 the young will venture outside of the natal burrow.
  • Day 40 they will be completely weaned from their mother’s milk.

August sees the adult males of this specimen entering hibernation while females delay the process by about a month in order to gain fat reserves.  Finally with winter approaching juveniles that have been continuing to put on fat and are almost adult size now will enter hibernation.

The following spring will see the juveniles coming out of hibernation and of particular note is the fact that most females who have a life expectancy of 4 to 5 years of age will wait for their second spring to participate in the mating process. Males on the other hand only have a life expectancy of two years of age and they will likely participate in the mating process their first year of life

Status of Franklin’s Ground Squirrel:

The Franklin’s Ground Squirrel is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern (2008).

Justification for this classification is based on the facts that it is widespread. In some US states this species is of conservation concern but in other areas it is considered quite secure.

The following factors need to be addressed in order to mitigate threats to the Franklin’s Ground squirrel.

  1. Prevent the breaking up or loss of its Primary habitat. This factor not only isolates the species into pockets it also stops the spread of its genetic pool
  2. Change our perception of this species and stop the eradication of the species by mankind  because it is perceived to be an agricultural pest and is known to be a predator of duck eggs;
  3. Stop the use of herbicides and cutting of vegetation on railroad right-of-ways.
  4. Stop the conversion of unused railroad rights-of-way to other means.

For the Franklin’s ground squirrels Badgers are their primary natural predator. However they may become prey by coyotes, foxes, weasels, hawks, and snakes.

Parasites known to infest this species of ground squirrel are single celled protozoans, tapeworms, and round worms. 

Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel - Ictidomys tridecemlineatus

Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel
Photo By Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan - http://www.genome.gov/pressDisplay.cfm?photoID=4, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10691726

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel

In Canada the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel is found in a very small portion in the south-west corner of Ontario, South-Western Manitoba, Southern Saskatchewan and South-Eastern Alberta.

This species likes open areas with short grass where the soil is well-drained and sandy or loamy. These soil conditions are perfect for it to dig its underground burrows in which it rests, gives birth, and hibernates.

You will not find this specimen in wooded areas but you will likely find them in grasslands, cultivated fields, well-grazed pastures, meadows, roadsides, airfields, golf courses, cemeteries, mowed lawns, parks and roadsides.

Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel Range Map of Canada

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel Range Map Of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

Description of Richardson’s Ground Squirrel:

This squirrel was named after Sir John Richardson (5 November 1787 – 5 June 1865) who was a Scottish naval surgeon, naturalist and arctic explorer. 

The organizational structure of this squirrel centers may be colonial in nature in that they will live in groups that are close together. But these colonies will center around related females that live in close proximity to each other. Females of the species will permit closely related females to live close to them but will display territorial aggression towards other females. In either case, females will display aggression towards in the immediate vicinity of their nest site. 

Audible alarm calls are emitted by individuals when perceived predators approach and new research has discovered that ultrasonic alarm calls are given and replied to within members of the colony.

The colouring of this species is dark brown across its back along with a tan colour along its flanks and underbelly. Physically its tail is not as long as other ground squirrels and it is not as bushy. Its ears are very short and it behaves more like a prairie dog than a ground squirrel in that its tail is constantly flickering. This twitching of it tail is so much that it is at times called a "flickertail".

There is some diversity between males and females of this species in that adult males are about 6 to 7% larger than females.

An adult male will measure 11.14 to 13.27 inches (28.3 to 33.7 cm) with a tail length of 2.26 to 3.46 ins. (6.5 to 8.8 cm.) while females will have an overall length of 10.39 to 12.52 inches (26.4 to 31.8 cm) with a tail length of 2.17 to 3.23 ins. (5.5 to 8.2 cm).

The weight of this mammal is tough to pin down because of its variation in weight over the course of a year. Coming out of hibernation males will only weigh 10.23 to 17.64 oz. (290 to 500 grams) while females will weigh 4.23 to 10.23 oz. (120 to 290 grams). Then going into hibernation males will attain weights in the range of 15.52 to 26.28 oz. (440 to 745 grams) while females will weigh 11.64 to 20.81 oz. (330 to 590 grams).

This ground squirrel’s peak activity is from about 2 hours after sunrise (10 am to 2 pm) and again 4 pm to sunset. It also tends to favour good weather conditions in that it will ride out periods of extreme heat and rain in its burrow.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Richardson’s Ground Squirrel:

This species is considered an omnivore in that they will consume seeds, nuts, grains, bulbs, green vegetation, grasses, insects, small invertebrates and carrion. Some of its favoured vegetation consists of Needle grasses, Sunflowers and Agropyron which is a variety of Eurasian plant of the grass family.

In the spring and during the early summer period it forages on a wide variety of herbaceous greenery. Then as summer progresses and fall arrives it switches its food sources to seeds and fruits as they become available. During the latter time period will stores caches of seed in its burrow. It should be noted that these food reserves are only consumed when it comes out of hibernation in the spring.

Through out these periods it will opportunistically feed on insects and carrion when they present themselves.

Breeding and Reproduction of Richardson’s Ground Squirrel:

The mating cycle of this squirrel is timed around the post hibernation period.

Adult male ground squirrels come out of hibernation in March and right away establish territories in preparation for when the females will emerge in a couple of weeks. Territorial males are extremely aggressive towards other males at this time.

The females come out of hibernation about 2 weeks later and somewhere around day 3 to 5 she emerges. She becomes sexually receptive for about 3 hours during which time she may mate with two to three males. Once the female is impregnated she becomes hostile towards male squirrels of the same species.

She will undergo a gestation period of about 24 days and in April or May she will produce her only litter of the year in an underground nest that she has prepared. The nest has a spherical shape to it and is lined with grasses in which straw or oat hulls may be found. The litter size may vary from 3 to 11 pups but the norm is a litter of 6-8 young that weigh about 0.22 oz. (6.35 g.)

For 28 to 40 days the pups remain underground in the natal burrow. That makes it late May to mid-June when they will be first seen. At this time they will weigh 1.76 to 3.53 oz. (50 to 100 g.) but it will not be 4 to 6 weeks of age before they are weaned.

In the meantime, adult members of the species are putting on weight in order to get ready for winter hibernation and when they are only active for 110 days of the year they don’t have long to be ready. Males will begin to hibernate as early as July and August while the females begin to go into hibernation only two weeks later.

This leaves the juveniles on their own to gain weight. Once they reach their adulthood weight they too will go into hibernation but that won’t be until September or October.

Both sexes of Richardson’s Ground Squirrels become sexually mature in 335 days and will participate in next springs’ mating process.

In the wild, females live longer than males of the species in that they live from 2 to 4 years and sometimes as long as 6 years. But males generally survive only 2 years and do not live longer than 4 years of age. The shortened lifespane of the male is accounted for by the extra energy that it expends and mortality amongst the male population that comes with male to male competition during the breeding season.

Status of Richardson’s Ground Squirrel:

This species of squirrel is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a specimen of least concern (2008). Justification for this listing is accounted for because the clearing of forests for farm land has drastically increased the natural habitat and population of this ground squirrel and because there are no known major threats.

Land based natural predators of this ground squirrel include weasels, ferrets, martens, minks, American Badgers, and coyotes.  Birds of prey like the Red-tailed hawk and Hen harrier should also be included on the list of those wishing to make it a meal.

Because the Richardson's ground squirrels can cause major crop damage they are considered by some in the agricultural community as pest.

This attitude has persisted and as an example. The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation in 2002 and again in 2003 held a 12 week long “gopher derby” in order to help control the population of this species. This was done despite the outcry from the Canadian Humane Society but it was an effective measure and in 2004 the program was cancelled.

The story does not end there as in 2010 the Saskatchewan government officially declared the species a pest and past the delicate issue on down to the local level and let them employ control measures.

In addition to trapping, shooting, and poisoning these ground squirrels the agricultural community has devised a method of

Injecting the squirrels burrows with a mixture of propane and oxygen. They then ignite the explosive mixture which in turn kills the squirrels through concussion and collapses their burrows. This is a short term measure as squirrels from other areas will spread into the area again.

Like the Columbian ground squirrel the Richardson’s is a known carrier of fleas that can transmit the bubonic plague. The species is also been linked to cases of tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Arctic Ground Squirrel - Urocitellus parryii

Arctic Ground Squirrel
Photo By - Ianaré Sévi - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7612660

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Arctic Ground Squirrel

The Arctic ground squirrel is native to the North America and occupies arctic and tundra territories at northern latitudes and higher elevations. At lower latitudes and elevations it occupies the boreal forest and alpine meadows.  In Canada it is in Northern British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, Nunavut and the northern tip of Manitoba. It does not occur east of Hudson’s Bay.

It does hibernate most of the year and it is a native year round resident whose habitat can be in open meadows or above tree line. It likes to occupy mountain slopes, sub alpine brushy meadows, river flats, riverbanks, roadsides, lakeshores, sandbanks and tundra ridges of the arctic tundra but not where the permafrost persists.

The highest population densities of arctic ground squirrels are found in the arctic tundra and alpine habitats. Here they are regulated by the availability of food resources and burrow availability. Boreal forest populations in contrast have lower densities because they are limited not only by food supplies but because predation is higher and they have a reduced ability to detect predators.

This ground squirrel prefers a sandy soil condition that makes it easy to dig in. Good drainage is also desirable to keep the burrows dry. 

These squirrels are colonial in nature and construct comprehensive burrow systems that may be in use for many years for the purpose of hibernating in, escape from predation and climate, and rearing of their young.

These burrows or tunnels are not normally more than 3 feet (1 m.) deep but will have several entrances and nests. They will also generally have a length of 65 ft. (20 m.).

The Arctic Ground Squirrel constructs and uses three different types of burrows.

The first type is called a Duck hole in that it is a short tunnel with several exits and is used primarily as an escape hideout.

The second type is called a double burrow. It is a series of many multilevel tunnels, nest chambers, and exits that is shared by related breeding females to raise their young. Burrow nests are made up of lichens and dry grasses, which are 8.86 to 11.8 ins (22.5 to 30 cm) in diameter.

The third type is called a hibernacula burrow. This is used for hibernating in and it may be either connected to an existing burrow or dug out on its own. The key feature of this type of burrow is that it often has a hidden entrance that it will fill with earth when it goes into hibernation. The Arctic squirrel lines its burrows are lined with lichens, leaves, and muskox hair.  It will clear the earth out upon emerging from hibernation in the spring.

In all cases areas with wet soils are bypassed because of their poor suitability for digging and areas with hummocks or abundant tall or shrubby vegetation are also avoided because these sites reduce the squirrel’s ability to visually detect predators.

All of this activity of digging burrows helps the soil by aerating it, turning it over, bringing nutrients to the surface, breaking up the soil and increasing the soils ability to hold water. All of these attributes combine to aid in higher organic matter content, increased nutrient levels, and increased seed germination rates. Net result is more plant growth and other arctic herbivores and grazers benefit in the process.

As the squirrel continues to use a given burrow, their feces and urine in turn provide added nitrogen and phosphorus to fertilize the soil. More fertilizer results in more vegetation. More vegetation results in more snow cover. More snow cover results in warmer soil temperatures which results in higher populations of arctic ground squirrels.

Arctic Ground Squirrel Range Map of Canada

Arctic Ground Squirrel Range Map Of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

Description of Arctic Ground Squirrel:

The arctic ground squirrel is the largest of the ground squirrels and it is also the northernmost terrestrial mammal that hibernates.

Evolution has given this species some hibernation tactics that are unusual as an adaptation for surviving extended seasons of extreme temperatures and no food availability:

  • Five to seven weeks prior to going into hibernation they have the ability to increase their body fat reserves by 30 to 41.5% of their total body weight.
  • During the course of hibernation their core body temperature will drop to 26.78 °F (-2.9° C.) from a core body temperature of 96.8 °F (36° C).
  • The temperature of its brain drops to just above freezing.
  • The temperature in the areas of its extremities, intestines, and blood go to subzero temperatures.
  • They also posses the lowest known minimum metabolic rate of any hibernator that is capable of internal generation of heat.
  • Hibernation rates attain levels of 0.012 ml O2/g/h during torpor at ambient temperatures of 4°C and that is from a normal rate of 0.40 to 0.61 ml O2/g/h.
  • Its heart rate will drop to about 1 Beat Per Minute.

The Arctic Ground Squirrels is a non-migrant species that must cope with a grim environment that offers a lengthy, frigid winter, heavy winds, a brief growing season, permafrost, poor drainage, and limited opportunities to hide.

Evolution gave them a barrel-shaped body shape with short, powerful forearms. They have four digits with sharp claws on their forefeet to aid them in digging. And five toes also with sharp claws on their hind feet to provide forward propulsion.

They have soft pads on the bottom surfaces of their feet that allow them to hold and manipulate food and earth. Cheek pouches are used to store and carry food. And their dental formula is: I 1/1, C 0/0, P 2/1, M 3/3, and P3 is one-third to one-half the size of P4.

Colourization of this mammal is dependant upon the season as it does shed its fur twice a year. One molt occurs in the spring when it emerges from hibernation. And the second occurs in the fall prior to it going into hibernation.

For the summer months is underbelly is a light buff colour and the fur on its back and along the cheeks and sides of the animal is a red/yellow colour that are flecked with white spots. The colour of its tail matches their body fur at the base of the tail and progress to a darker colour as you move to the tip of the tail.

The fall molt replaces the red patches of fur with a silvery fur and turns the underbelly of the animal an even lighter buffy colour.

Finally the face of this squirrel is short; it has small ears, and white markings around its eyes.

Sexual diversification is minor in that male members of the species are slightly longer in length than females.

This ground squirrel ranges in length 13.07 to 14.49 in. (33.2 to 49.5 cm) and has an average length of 15.35 ins. (39.0 cm.).

The length of their skull is 1.99 to 2.59 ins. (5.07 to 6.58 cm), while their tail is 3.03 to 5.92 ins (7.7 to 15.3 cm), and their hind foot is 1.97 to 2.68 ins. (5.0 to 6.8 cm),

Since arctic ground squirrels undergo drastic seasonal changes in body mass, it is difficult[11] to give an average mass, but for adult females it is close to 750 g (26 oz), however, males generally are around 100 g (3.5 oz) heavier than females.

Because of the loss of body mass during hibernation it is hard to get a fix on the actual mass of this species. Males tend to vary in weight from 26.10 oz. (740 g) in the spring to 35.27 oz. (1000 g.) in the fall while females will have a spring time mass of 21.16 oz. (600 g) and 35.27 oz. (1000 g.) in the fall.

It is thought that Arctic Ground squirrels use communication via alarm calls to signal other members of the colony that a predator is nearby. It is suggested that high-pitched whistles are used for aerial predators while a guttural chatter is used for a land based predator.

Males use the scent glands that are located on their cheeks and back to mark the boundaries of their territory and signal other males. Territorial squabbles over mating rights are resolved through violent confrontations that include biting and scratching and can often cause serious injuries and even the mortality of individuals.

Social contact is initiated with a nose-to-nose contact and by pressing other body parts against each other in various poses. These meeting can end peacefully or violently depending on the circumstances.

The Arctic Ground Squirrel hibernates from September to April or May. Adult members of the species go into hibernation first and juveniles go into hibernation later in order to put on body fat. The males come out of hibernation while the snow is on the ground. This species is inactive on days that are cloudy or if it is raining. During good weather they can be found to be active from about 04:00 am to 11:30 pm. It should also be noted that daylight is longer in most of their territory.

Date 90°N (North Pole) 78.3°N (Mid-way) 66.6°N (Arctic Circle)
       
January 21 No Sun No Sun 4:55 Sun
February 21 No Sun 4:41 Sun 8:52 Sun
March 20 Sun All Day 12:35 Sun 12:18 Sun
April 21 Sun All Day Sun All Day 16:16 Sun
May 21 Sun All Day Sun All Day 20:25 Sun
June 21 Sun All Day Sun All Day Sun All Day
July 21 Sun All Day Sun All Day 20:37 Sun
August 21 Sun All Day Sun All Day 16:23 Sun
September Sun All Day 12:35 Sun 12:18 Sun
October 21 No Sun 4:27 Sun 8:48 Sun
November 21 No Sun No Sun 4:53 Sun
December 22 No Sun No Sun 2:11 Sun

http://www.arctic.uoguelph.ca/cpe/environments/sky/features/sun_moon/daylight.htm

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Arctic Ground Squirrel:

The Arctic Ground Squirrel is an opportunistic omnivore, in that it forages for food that is available at the time and will feed on both animal and plant matter.

Spring arrives and there is not much vegetation about. It has some food reserves in storage in his den and that is about it. So is not surprising to find that this species will feed on other animals at this time. Animal matter for this species can consist of insects, invertebrates, small vertebrates, young birds, eggs, mice, lemmings and carrion that may come in the form of snowshoe hares and caribou.

As spring turns to summer plant growth is more apparent and the Arctic Ground squirrel will shift its diet towards plant material in order to increase body fat content for winter hibernation. It will consume almost any part of a plant; roots, tubers, stalks, leaf buds, leaves, flowers, berries, seeds, and fruits. As far as plants goes, it will forage on lichens, grasses, sedges, mosses, mushrooms, bog rushes, bilberries, willows and catkins,

As summer progress it will begin to store only plant matter in the form of nuts, seeds and dry grass in its burrow. This is in order to serve as a spring time larder of food to last until plants begin to grow in the spring. 

Breeding and Reproduction of Arctic Ground Squirrel:

The timing of the breeding season for the Arctic Ground Squirrel is dependant on latitude and will occur somewhere between mid-April to mid-May. This is when the females of the species emerge from winter hibernation and they attain their maximal estrous cycle that occurs about three days later. During this time they are only receptive for less than a 12-hour period.

Male members of the Arctic Ground squirrel will try to defend a territory in which several females reside. Competition amongst the males for the right to breed can become very intense and vicious which in turn increases the mortality rate of the male members of the species. Vicious in-fighting can cause death amongst the males. But the activity of competing for and maintaining a breeding territory can cause an additional body mass loss of 21% and increases the likely hood that he will not be able to put on enough weight to survive hibernation next winter. If that was not enough, this weight loss results in poor immune systems and poor overall health which in turn causes many males to die after the mating season. Lastly this competition for the right to breed makes the males more visible to predators and susceptible to predation.

Females in their short estrus period may mate with up to four males but there is evidence that copulatory plugs are deposited in the females by the males. With the use of these plugs the odds are 90% that the females’ litter will be sired by the first male that breeds with her.

Following conception the female will under go a gestation period of 25 to 30 days (average is 28 days) following which she will produce her only litter of the year in late June. The litter will consist of 5 to 10 (average is 4), 0.35 oz. (10 g.) arterial pups in that they are born hairless, toothless, blind, with unopened ears, and incapable of thermoregulation.

Due to the short Arctic spring and summer these newborns do not have much time to reach adult size. Their mother’s lactation period is only 28 to 35 days long following which they should have a mass of 7.02 oz. (199 g.) and must be weaned by that time.

Through out the time period of rearing her young, females of the species must fight to protect their young from infanticide males and will do so. A defence strategy of the female is to form a group of closely-related females in what is called a “kin cluster”. The cluster works in a cooperative method by living together in close or connected burrow systems and the responsibilities of watching for predators, and defence of the young against infanticide males can be shared. Until the pups are weaned their mother will spend most of her time in the natal burrow. However, with this kin cluster arrangement she is able to emerge for short feeding periods several times a day before having to return to her young.

The occurrence of infanticide demonstrated by male members of the species is high. The thought here is that incoming males in an effort to establish a new territory are like lions, killing the offspring that they have not conceived. These attacks are not of just infants in the nest but will also include juveniles that have already emerged from the natal nest.

Once the young have been weaned, their mother will care for the young another one to two weeks at which time. She will encourage her young to leave the natal nest (6 weeks old) and become fully independent at weeks 6 to 7.

The young must put on body mass at an incredible rate for in another 4 weeks (which makes them 10 weeks old) the young should be have reached 80% of their adult weight. It is at this time that their size due to sexual differences can be noted and they begin to disperse from their natal range. By mid September these juveniles need to attain their prehibernation weight of 21.16 to 24.69 oz. (600 to 700 g.). 

On a whole the population of Arctic Ground Squirrels will be predominately female and for those juveniles that have the survival instinct and skills to make it to next spring, they will participate in the reproductive process.

I have a statistic that a wild Arctic ground squirrel can survive from eight to ten years but I have to assume that this must be for females and that a male is somewhat less.

Status of Arctic Ground Squirrel:

This species of squirrel is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a specimen of least concern (2008). Justification for this listing is because the population size is large and it is plentiful throughout its large range. The major threat to this species is from over hunting for it meat and its fur is used by indigenous Alutiiq and Aleut peoples to make of parkas and other garments for trade. Despite these two issues it is not deemed to be threatened.

Arctic ground squirrel is an important cornerstone source of food for many predators of the arctic and boreal forest that use it as prey. It is also susceptible to disease, starvation and freezing. The life expectancy of this species in its first year is between 54 and 74% with females having a longer life expectancy than males. These chances of survival are dependant upon individuals finding forage, burrow sites, predation, infectious diseases, and climatic conditions.

Known land based predators of the Arctic Ground squirrel include: Arctic Ground squirrels, Red Foxes, Arctic Foxes, Coyotes, Wolves, lynxes, Wolverines, Grizzly bears and Ermines,

Birds of prey include: Northern goshawks, Great Horned owls, Red-Tailed Hawks, Harlans Hawks, Common Ravens, Long Tailed Jaeger, Snowy Owls, Short Eared Owls, Golden Eagles, Northern Harriers, Gyrfalcons, Rough Legged Hawks and Peregrine falcons.

Arctic ground squirrels also serve as a host to several parasites including the fleas, Oropsylla alaskensis and Oropsylla idahoensis, and digestive tract dwelling protists, Eimeria callospermophila, Eimeria cynomysis, Eimeria lateralis, and Eimeria morainensis (Hass et al. 1982, Seville et al. 2005).

 

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_gray_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_red_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_flying_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_flying_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden-mantled_ground_squirrel

http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Spermophilus_lateralis/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cascade_golden-mantled_ground_squirrel

http://naturalhistory.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=345

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin%27s_ground_squirrel

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Franklin's_ground_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteen-lined_ground_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbian_ground_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richardson%27s_ground_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_ground_squirrel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_of_Canada

https://naturalhistory.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=298

http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/eastern-grey-squirrel.html

http://www.nafa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/NAFA_2016-04-WF-USA-web.pdf

http://eol.org/pages/347685/details

http://eol.org/pages/347428/details

http://eol.org/pages/347429/details

http://eol.org/pages/347433/details

http://eol.org/pages/347431/details

http://eol.org/pages/128483/details

http://eol.org/pages/328005/details

http://eol.org/pages/999163/details

http://eol.org/pages/328002/details

http://eol.org/pages/327848/details

http://eol.org/pages/327988/details

 

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