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    Golden-mantled ground squirrels are commonly associated with high-elevation habitats near or above upper timberline. This species also occurs in fire-adapted, low-elevation forests that are targeted for forest health restoration (FHR) treatments intended to remove encroaching understory trees and thin overstory trees. Hence, the golden-mantled ground squirrel may be affected by FHR treatments, but little is known about its habitat associations within these forest types. We sampled mature western larch and ponderosa pine forests in western Montana to determine the macro- and microhabitat associations of this ground squirrel. At the macrohabitat scale, golden-mantled ground squirrels were absent from western larch stands which consistently had a denser understory. Because we did not detect golden-mantled ground squirrels within larch stands, it is unclear whether FHR treatments in this forest type would improve habitat conditions for these ground squirrels. In contrast, golden-mantled ground squirrels were common in ponderosa pine stands and favored more open conditions there. At the microhabitat scale within ponderosa pine stands, golden-mantled ground squirrels were captured at trap stations with fewer canopy trees, more rock cover, and less grass and forb cover compared to stations without captures. Thus, FHR treatments that open the understory of ponderosa pine stands while maintaining mature pines similar to historic conditions may increase golden-mantled ground squirrel populations. However, the extent to which golden-mantled ground squirrels are positively affected by FHR treatments in ponderosa pine stand types may be limited by the degree of their dependence on rocky structure.

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    Shick, Katharine R.; Pearson, Dean E.; Ruggiero, Leonard F. 2006. Forest habitat associations of the golden-mantled ground squirrel: Implications for fuels management. Northwest Science. 80(2): 133-139.


    golden-mantled ground squirrels, forest habitats, fuels management, forest health restoration (FHR) treatments

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