RFI – for Chipmunks and Ground Squirrels in California, Colorado and eastern Utah

I am in the USA for 10 days early next month – mainly around LA and Denver – but I will spend a few days driving around or out of both states if I need to. Can anyone recommend sites for the following squirrels in those areas:

Hopi Chipmunk
Lodgepole Chipmunk
Merriam’s Chipmunk

Belding’s Ground Squirrel
Spotted Ground Squirrel
Mojave Ground Squirrel

I might go to Yosemite again too. Does anyone know how easy it is to see Allen’s and Long-eared Chipmunks there or in the surrounds?




  • Morgan Churchill

    I can help with some of these:

    Hopi Chipmunk: I had several of these this weekend at Colorado National Monument on the west slope. They were in the vicinity of the Visitor Center, although park staff mentioned they were often seen running across the road in the early morning. I expected these to be common, but these guys were actually pretty shy and I mostly got shoddy looks.
    Least Chipmunk is also present, however Hopi is
    really easy to id so should pose a problem.

    Merriam’s Chipmunk: This is easy to get pretty much anywhere in the mountains in San Diego County, where I have had the most experience with these species. I think I have seen them elsewhere as well in the right habitat (mountain chaparal seems to be good for them)

    Belding’s Ground Squirrel: A colony exists (or did 5 years ago) at Mono Lake County Park, near Yosemite (other side of the coast). I think you can also get Lodgepole Chipmunk in Yosemite, but I have never seen or at least identified one.

    I had Allen’s Chipmunk and Long-eared both in Yosemite, in Merced Grove. I vaguely recall the Long-eared as common, but perhaps I simply remember them better as they were easier to identify than some of the other park chipmunks

    I have never seen Mohave Ground Squirrel, but I believe they aestivate/hibernate a good chunk of the year. Might be good to figure out if they will even be active in early June before making a special trip

  • Morgan Churchill

    That should read Hopi SHOULDN’T pose a problem to id

  • John Fox


    There is a place for Swift Fox around Keota, CO, not far from Denver. A local birder named Les, bless him, told me about it when we were out there. From Rt. 14 go north on CO RD 103 about three miles and the road makes a hard right, look near that bend. If not there go on up and make a left on CO RD 390 and go up to CO RD 104, there should be a dog town and an abandoned house on the NE corner, look in the field behind those. I went right on 104 and made the first left and found the Fox not too far from the road on the left. (The dog town and house are definitive, the roads are my best guess from the map. The pattern is correct and there aren’t that many roads).

    Spotted Ground Squirrel is possible anywhere west of there, I got a brief look at one along CO RD 100. That’s one place a guy recommended on an earlier RFI. You can drive the grid roads forever, almost, and get home.

    Hopi Chipmunks were easy around the visitor’s center at Natural Bridges NM, UT, but that’s a long haul from Denver. Morgan’s place is probably easier to get to. And I agree with Morgan, they’re a pretty easy ID for a Chipmunk.

    This link has maps at the end for Mohave GS:


    You need another map that shows roads and towns to figure out where to go. It’s a pain but a s***load better than no gen at all. Page 13 talks about seasonal activity.

    Lodgepole Chipmunks and Beldging’s GS were easy around the east entrance booth at Tioga Pass Rd, but the pass won’t be open yet. Not sure how far in you can get from the east. Vladimir once mentioned Bodie Ghost town or something like that for Beldings, which isn’t far away IIRC.

    That’s all I can think of, good luck.


  • Jon Hall

    Thanks so much Morgan and John – this is really useful info! The Swift Fox in particular would be great. Sounds like I ought to see another 10 to 15 lifers on this trip with a bit of luck. God bless America 🙂


  • Don Roberson

    FWIW, Hopi Chipmunk is also reasonably common at Natural Bridges Nat’l Monument in southeast Utah, and also Arches Nat’l Park in eastern Utah. At the latter site, Landscape Arch was one locale. Don

  • John Fox

    So how’d it go, Jon? My day job is unbelievably boring, I need a mammal story to keep me going 🙂

  • Jon Hall

    Hi John, greetings from a cold Canberra – a rude shock after California and Colorado. I am waiting for my real computer to arrive and will do a report then but first off thanks so much for your advice. It wasn’t a full on mammal trip for me, but I did see just about everything I was looking for other than Colorado Chipmunks. I saw San Joaquin and Heerman’s Kangaroo Rats easily on the Carizo Plains and – with the help of the ranger – got Mojave Ground Squirrels at the Desert Tortoise National Area (so weird but the ranger had just moved back to the USA after 12 years in Zambia, where I lived for a year so we had friends in common). In Colorado I saw Hopi Chipmunks at the Colorado National Monument, then headed over west of Fort Collins to Keota and saw 2 Swift Foxes and a Badger within half a mile of one of the dirt road junctions. I saw a Spotted Ground Squirrel and almost exactly the same place the next day. A real biodiversity hotspot. I set a few traps and caught a Western Harvest Mouse too.

    Despite a lot of looking I couldn’t find a Colorado Chipmunk around Boulder but have since discovered that Chipmunks respond very very well to squeaking them in, so if I had tried that I might have had more luck.

    Headed back to Cal and to Yosemite for my last weekend. Saw Beldings Ground Squirrels and Lodgepole Chipmunks around Mammoth Lakes (along with a fat fat bear). Long-eared were common at around 6000 feet within the park and I saw one Allen’s Chipmunk too on the Merced Grove trail head (this species seems to have declined dramatically in the park over the past 100 years). I stopped at a campsite near Frazier Park (about an hour out of LA on I5) to look for Merriam’s Chipmunks and they were there in plague proportions. I did a bit of squeaking and I must have heard 100 respond… I thought they were birds or insects at first, but every few square metres of scrub had its own resident pair.

    So another 12 species for my little list 🙂

    Will send a report in the next week I hope. What are you looking for next?


  • John Fox

    Thanks! And congrats, sounds like a good trip. I really have to get some traps and start doing that, there aren’t many places like Carrizo Plain where the nocturnal rodents are so cooperative.

    Both Allegheny Woodrat and Appalachian Cottontail are within two hours of my house. I found a survey of the Woodrat from the 1990s, they were found in 27 counties in Virginia, much more widespread and abundant than I had imagined. I dipped on both last week while helping out on a breeding bird survey in the boonies, but scouted a few places nearer to home on my way back. It’s just a matter of enduring the nightmare traffic here to try for them.


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