Non-birds of the field II: mammals

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.)

Baby Belding’s!

I’m a lookout just like the grown-ups.

Yellow-bellied marmot

Marmots seem to spend all day sunbathing on their favorite boulders. I’m envious.

Mule deer


Anxious pika

Stretchy pika


Baby pika?


A chickaree dispute

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.

A personal hygiene moment

Baby chickaree

7 thoughts on “Non-birds of the field II: mammals

  1. These pictures are wonderful! We have chipmunks and I used to love watching them sunning themselves on a brick wall in our backyard. One day while I was watching, a Northern Harrier hawk swooped in and snatched one away. I can’t ever look at small, furry creatures without cringing just a little bit. It’s hard seeing the food chain at work up close and personal!

    • Mostly birds of prey. Snakes might be an occasional threat for the smaller ones – I don’t think there are any snakes in the area that could handle a marmot! Coyotes, maybe. For the deer, probably only cougars.
      It’s a great question. I tend to think of these cute fuzzy guys as predators themselves, since all of them would probably eat junco eggs or chicks if they came across them. (Even deer!)

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