FWS Focus


The northern Idaho ground squirrel (Urocitellus brunneus) is smaller than most ground squirrels at about 9 inches. It was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, April 5, 2000. The northern Idaho ground squirrel's fur is dark reddish-gray (due to a mixture of black unbanded and yellowish-red banded guard hairs), with reddish-brown spots on its coat. It has a short, narrow tail, tan feet and ears, grey-brown throat, and a creamy white eye ring. This rare squirrel needs large quantities of grass seed, stems and other green leafy vegetation to store fat reserves for its eight-month hibernation period (August/early September through late April/May). Adult males are first to emerge from burrows in the spring followed by females and their young. Populations of the northern Idaho ground squirrel have been found in Adams and Valley Counties of western Idaho, though the species historic range extends into neighboring Washington County. It occurs in dry meadows surrounded by ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests, including lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service's Payette National Forest (1,500 to 7,500-foot elevations). Today there are an estimated 1,500 to 2,200 individual animals in about 54 populations, including New Meadows, Lost Valley Reservoir, and other nearby locations. It is thought that northern Idaho ground squirrel populations have decreased due to the loss of their native meadow habitat as a result of fire suppression. Important travel corridors have become fragmented, leaving the ground squirrels to survive in isolated islands of non-connected habitat. As of 2011, the recovery status remained unclear, though range-wide monitoring shows known populations as stable to slightly increasing over time. Biologists have recorded several new population sites, and the animal seems to be responding positively to habitat restoration at certain locations, especially on the Payette National Forest.

Scientific Name

Urocitellus brunneus
Common Name
Idaho Ground Squirrel
Northern Idaho Ground Squirrel
FWS Category

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



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