Uinta ground squirrel (Spermophilus armatus)

Fuzzy ground squirrel sitting on his haunches in a grassy field

Uinta ground squirrel (Spermophilus armatus)

Uinta ground squirrels are small, burrowing rodents found in mountainous sagebrush meadows in the western US. They occupy a small range, being found in southwest Montana, eastern Idaho, northern Utah, and western Wyoming. They will dig burrows in which they form colonies at very high densities. Along with these mountain meadows, they often frequent lawns and other irrigated areas. After coming out of hibernation, they begin the breeding season, where females will typically produce litters of 4-8 young at a time. Early summer is the perfect time to relax on the front porch of the Berol lodge and watch the younglings frolic about the lawn. These cute critters forage on green vegetation, seeds, and insects. They also enjoy aquatic plants and are surprisingly good swimmers!

While they are undoubtedly fun to watch, timing is key. Uinta ground squirrels are only active for about 3 months of the year, as they are in hibernation all winter before going dormant again in the late summer. Learn more about these rowdy rodents here.

Written by Timothy Uttenhove
PC: Timothy Uttenhove

Western Bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis)

Fluffy bumblebee rests on a green, weedy flower

Western Bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis)

Bumblebees are an important asset to the environment and to humans. While honeybees get a lot of credit for their pollination, native bees, such as bumblebees, are efficient pollinators that can pollinate plants that the honey bee cannot, like tomato plants! The Western Bumblebee is considered endangered as well as several other species of North American bumblebees. Pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change are all possible factors to the decline of bumblebees. If you want to see the Western Bumblebee in action, I have found them on the green gentian plants (Frasera speciosa) that are at the Black Tail Butte trail head.

Western bumblebees have three distinct color variations, depending on their geographic location, but you could possibly see more intermediate color variations in the field. Some scientists do believe that B. occidentalis and B. terricola are the same species, but there are other scientists that say they are two separate species. Because of the color variation in these bees, it would be hard to identify without a microscope. Read more about the Western Bumblebee at https://xerces.org/endangered-species/species-profiles/at-risk-bumble-bees/western-bumble-bee.

Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman