Home Smithsonian: National Museum of Natural History Home
Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Mammal    Species Name:
Spermophilus columbianus

Common Name:
Columbian Ground Squirrel


Kamiah, Idaho   May 27, 1806

265 days of rest

The Columbian ground squirrel is one of more than 20 species belonging to this genus that inhabit the United States, so it was pretty good of Lewis and Clark to recognize this species as being distinct from others they had encountered.  The Captains made long, accurate, and detailed descriptions of this burrowing mammal's behavior and physical characteristics.  What the Captains could not have known, though, is how long these mammals hibernate.  After eating voraciously over only 90 - 100 days during spring and summer, Columbian ground squirrels move to the hibernating chambers of their dens, the hibernacula.  They plug the entrance with soil and enter into a state of torpor for about nine months.  The weight they gain during the few warm months has to sustain them over this entire period.  This is extreme hibernation!

For more information about this North American mammal, click here.

Journal Entries:

Capt. Lewis, May 27, 1806--There is a speceis of Burrowing squirel common in these plains which in their habits somewhat resemble those of ...  more>>

References Ord, George in William Guthrie, A New Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammer; and present state of the several Kingdoms of the world. &c. Second American Edition, 2 vols, , 1815

see following caption

See following caption
Columbian ground squirrel

Smithsonian Institution
Copyright Notice
Privacy Notice