All photos in this post are by M. LaBarbera.
Belding’s ground squirrel
Stand at one of our high-elevation sites, and at any given moment, you will be under surveillance by at least two Belding’s ground squirrels.
You might not see them, but down in the grass and the flowers, they are watching.
A lot of research has been done on altruism in Belding’s ground squirrels. The lookouts keep watch for predators and may give alarm calls if they see one, which alerts others but increases the lookout’s risk of predation. So why would a lookout ever alarm? It turns out that lookouts give alarm calls more when their close relatives are nearby: they’re willing to risk themselves to save sisters, mothers, and daughters. (Males leave the group as juveniles, so brothers and sons usually aren’t around to be warned.)
Marmots seem to spend all day sunbathing on their favorite boulders. I’m envious.
Chickarees make incredible noises. I offended one once—I’ve no idea how—and he stared me down steadily from a branch, approaching slowly and scolding “peeeewww peeewww peeeewwwww“—exactly the sound effect a four-year-old would make for a laser space-gun.