Thursday, July 28

The Secret Life of Ground Squirrels

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Jul 28, 2022

The Secret Life of Ground Squirrels

Hi there! I'm Melvin, the one in 1,000,000 melanistic Columbian Ground Squirrel. Hundreds of my family and I call Banff Sunshine its beautiful Sunshine Meadows home.


Banff Sunshine is home to a wide array of wildlife and wildflowers. If you ask me, we, the Columbian ground squirrel, are definitely the cutest of the animals that call Sunshine home. 


Where at Sunshine can you find us? A better question is, where can't you find us at Banff Sunshine? You can spot my cousins, uncles, aunts and siblings all over Banff Sunshine. You'll know it's us by our cute furry face and fluffy tail. As for me, you'll have to look a little harder as I'm the only black ground squirrel. 


On your next visit to Banff Sunshine Meadows, keep your eyes peeled for other ground squirrels and me. I like to hang out around Sunshine Mountain Lodge. If you see us, snap a photo. But please don't feed us. We're on a strict Sunshine meadows diet. 


Us ground squirrels love learning about you humans. We think it's fascinating how you spend your day on tiny screens. Us, we'll we have no use for social media. But our days are ripe with squirrel business as we squirrel away seeds for the winter. 


As a ground squirrel, this is what our typical day looks like: 

5:00 AM – we like to wake up early to catch the sunrise. We have a saying the early squirrel gets the seed. We tend to leave the burrow early to get a head start on our squirrel work. 

6:00 AM – 11:00 AM Using my short legs and strong claws, I scurry around looking for snacks, obviously making time for standing at attention.

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – squirrel business is hard work. To keep our energy up, nap time is a must. 

1:00 PM – 7:00 PM - pitter patter, let's get at er. Food doesn't fall from the sky. After a nap, we're back at work Looking for our next meal. In between seeds and nuts, we like to stand at attention and fit in some afternoon grooming in the sun and of course, maybe another nap

7:00 PM – I prefer it when the sun is shining and the temperatures are hot, so it's time for me to head back to my burrow


We Columbian Ground Squirrels are fascinating creatures! Here are some fun facts I bet you didn't know about us: 


  • - The Columbian ground squirrel can be found in western North America. They live in burrows with multiple entrances and exits in case they need to escape. Next time you are in the village core, you may notice some of these burrows. Preserving wildlife habits is just one of the many reasons we ask that you remain on the path during your visit to our resort.


  • - If you are in the village and notice one of these little critters, you'll find that the most common above-ground activity is standing at attention at the entrance to their underground burrows.


  • - The reason you may not see us ground squirrels in the winter while you are skiing or riding is that we hibernate for 8 – 9 months of the year.
  • Our average life span is 3 to 4 years, but we can live up to 6 years. 


  • - We ground squirrels are prolific breeders! We're almost as good of multipliers as rabbits. A momma ground squirrel can have up to 15 babies per little. As ground squirrels, we typically only mate once a year, in the early spring.


  • - We little rodents are early risers, we often leave the burrow just before sunrise. We are more likely to be found out and about in the mornings and are most active during the hottest parts of the day.
  • - Did you know Banff Sunshine is home to a very rare black Colombian ground squirrel (that's me Melvin!)? My black coloring is unique amongst my alpine rodent buddies due to my Melanism, which is similar to Albinism but black instead of white. This rare occurrence is believed to be a first for Banff; next time you're in the meadows, keep an eye out for me, Melvin, the melanism ground squirrel.
  • - We ground squirrels are omnivores. While we typically like to eat green grass, seeds, nuts and berries- we also will eat eggs, insects and small vertebrates. 
  • - We are not fans of grizzly bears. To them we are a tasty treat. When you say bear we run and hide.


  • - On your next visit to Sunshine Village visit our Interpretive Centre to learn more about all of the wildlife that can be found in the meadows.


FUN FACT Columbian Ground Squirrels are only active for about 69 - 94 days of the year!


Next time you visit the Banff Sunshine Meadows, keep a look out for this furry critter.