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Demographic and environmental correlates of home ranges and long-distance movements of Mohave ground squirrels

October 27, 2022

Space use by mammals can differ among age-classes, sexes, or seasons, and these processes are recognized as adaptive behavioral strategies. Semi-fossorial ground squirrels, in particular, have shown age- and sex-specific patterns in their aboveground movement behaviors. We studied space use of Mohave ground squirrels (Xerospermophilus mohavensis) at the Freeman Gulch study site in the central region of their range in the Mojave Desert, California. We documented the timing of their full annual cycle, investigated correlates of size of home ranges of adults and distance of long-distance movements by juveniles, and evaluated whether juvenile body masses and movements were related to interannual climatic variation. Adult males emerged from burrows and entered hibernation sooner than did adult females. Home ranges were larger for males (⁠x¯">x¯x¯ ± SD = 0.50 ± 0.40 km2) than females (0.05 ± 0.03 km2), especially during the mating season. Maximum distances moved by juveniles did not differ significantly between males (1.6 ± 2.3 km) and females (1.0 ± 1.8 km), and both sexes were equally likely to travel long distances from natal sites. The longest-distance movement we documented was 7.7 km by a juvenile male. Juveniles born in a year of low vegetation productivity gained significantly less mass (97 ± 7 g) and traveled shorter distances than those born in a year of higher vegetation productivity (177 ± 20 g). Our findings were similar to those documented in the Coso Range study site in the northern region of the geographic range of the species, indicating that movement patterns are similar range-wide. Mohave ground squirrels responded strongly to climate variation, and global climate change will likely result in a northward shift in suitable habitats. Informed conservation planning, therefore, will be essential for this rare, declining species.

Publication Year 2022
Title Demographic and environmental correlates of home ranges and long-distance movements of Mohave ground squirrels
DOI 10.1093/jmammal/gyac082
Authors Sharon Poessel, Philip Leitner, Rich Inman, Todd C. Esque, Todd E. Katzner
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Mammalogy
Index ID 70238024
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center; Western Ecological Research Center