Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

with 36 comments

How about this golden-mantled ground squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) nibbling on a dry plant in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, a year ago today?

UPDATE: Thanks to Tanja Britton for correcting my misidentification of this little animal as a chipmunk. I’m better at photographing than knowing what I’ve photographed.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 29, 2018 at 4:39 AM

36 Responses

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  1. What a cool little character!


    August 29, 2018 at 4:50 AM

    • It scampered around on and between the rocks. Fortunately it held still at times so I get a few pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2018 at 7:46 AM

  2. This chipmunk is pretty much perfect, even if its diet leaves a lot to be desired from a human perspective.


    August 29, 2018 at 6:23 AM

    • But maybe a lot of what we eat leaves a lot to be desired for it. Would a chipmunk eat cheese enchiladas or chow mein? Maybe. According to Wikipedia, “Chipmunks have an omnivorous diet primarily consisting of seeds, nuts and other fruits, and buds. They also commonly eat grass, shoots, and many other forms of plant matter, as well as fungi, insects and other arthropods, small frogs, worms, and bird eggs.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2018 at 7:52 AM

  3. Good morning, Steve,
    My judgement: you certainly captured the personality of a chipmunk. Great portrait of an ever so cute creature.
    Have a wonderful day,


    August 29, 2018 at 6:56 AM

  4. That’s one of the best woodchuck shot I’ve ever seen, Steve. Nice work!


    August 29, 2018 at 7:12 AM

    • I appreciate that, Ken. The nearest chipmunks to Austin are way over in far west Texas, so I’m not familiar with them. I’m glad for the chance I had in Waterton Lakes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2018 at 8:18 AM

  5. The “Awwww…” factor’s pretty high in this one. I like the way the curve of the plant stalk mimics the curve of dark fur on his side.

    He reminded me of a favorite Annie Dillard story. She found multiple tiny piles of plant stalks in a wheat field once, and couldn’t find a cause. Eventually, she discovered the culprit: a tiny mouse. It had been biting off section after section of stalk, effectively lowering the head of grain down to ground level so it could eat. In the crowded field, the other plants supported the one the mouse was after, so it had to ‘lower’ it, rather than just tipping it over. These little creatures may not ponder first causes or do higher math, but they can problem-solve like crazy.


    August 29, 2018 at 7:36 AM

    • Yes, with a picture like this I can count on a high AF (Awwwww Factor). It’s good of you to pick up on the similar curves of the plant and the dark fur. I couldn’t have planned it better—not that I had any say in it.

      In the end you answered the question that came to mind as I read your account of the mouse: why did it have to make more than one cut?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2018 at 8:26 AM

    • Highly interesting, Linda!


      August 29, 2018 at 8:42 AM

  6. My apologies, Steve, but this is a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis). It took me a long time to tell them apart from chipmunks. It helps to remind myself that chipmunks have facial stripes and tend to be smaller. They are both impossibly cute and I take their photos all the time.


    August 29, 2018 at 1:03 PM

    • Hey, thanks for correcting my misidentification, Tanja. I’ve updated the post with your information. One thing I noticed in looking up the golden-mantled ground squirrel online is that its zoological classification has apparently changed. The earlier genus name Spermophilus got expanded to Callospermophilus. I’ve noticed that kind of change in other genus names, as when the genus of Austin’s local Christmas cactus went from Opuntia to Cylindropuntia.

      I like your description: “impossibly cute.” I was fortunate to get a good picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2018 at 2:54 PM

      • Thank you for bringing me up to date with the new classification, Steve. All my printed guides are older, so the update is not reflected in them yet. We both learned something new today!


        August 29, 2018 at 3:17 PM

        • It doesn’t take long these days before a printed guide is in need of some amending. I went on a field trip a few years ago with a botanist from the University of Texas who pointed out the irony in the fact that the vernacular names of species now increasingly prove more stable than the scientific names—the opposite of the rationale for having scientific names.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 29, 2018 at 3:30 PM

  7. Thanks for the info and the link! 🙂


    August 29, 2018 at 3:10 PM

  8. […] Thanks to Tanja Britton for correcting yesterday’s post. What I’d thought was a chipmunk turned out to be a golden-mantled ground […]

  9. Chipmonks always make me think of Chip Monck. Not sure who Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels remind me of. Sweet shot.

    Steve Gingold

    August 31, 2018 at 6:55 PM

    • I had to look up Chip Monck to find out he was the lighting designer at the original Woodstock. Me, chip makes me think of chocolate chip ice cream and the phrase “chip off the old block.” I’m with you in not having any immediate association with golden-mantled ground squirrels.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2018 at 7:02 PM

  10. Handsome and such beautiful markings ..


    September 5, 2018 at 4:43 AM

  11. This is such a handsome portrait of a chipmunk. To me they are adorable troublemakers, but here he looks rather noble.


    September 29, 2018 at 9:48 PM

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