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Ground Squirrels

Northern Idaho Ground Squirrel

ESA Status: Threatened

The northern Idaho ground squirrel (Urocitellus brunneus) was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in April 2000. Populations of this subspecies can only be found in Adams and Valley Counties of western Idaho. It is estimated the population of squirrels has declined by 80% from initial surveys in 1985.

In September 2003, a final Recovery Plan was released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), with state of Idaho input. The full version of the Recovery Plan can be read here Northern Idaho Ground Squirrel Recovery Plan. A revision has been recommended in both the 2011 and 2017 USFWS 5-year status reviews for the species due to enhanced and increased information about the species biology, habitat, and threats. In May 2019, the USFWS stated that they are initiating the Recovery Planning and Implementation process. The USFWS reached out to the state of Idaho to be involved in the creation of a Species Status Assessment (SSA) to inform future recovery planning efforts for the northern Idaho ground squirrel. “The northern Idaho ground squirrel SSA will generate information to guide species conservation…Completing the SSA will take approximately 9-12 months, likely occurring in early 2020. After completion of the SSA, we will begin a revision of the recovery plan. The SSA, the recovery plan, and the recovery implementation strategy (to be developed in conjunction with the recovery plan) comprise the three parts of the Recovery Planning and Implementation process.” (USFWS May 2019)

Southern Idaho Ground Squirrel

ESA Status: Removed from list

The southern Idaho ground squirrel (Urocitellus endemicus) can be found in the Weiser River Basin and is native to four counties in southwest Idaho: Adams, Gem, Payette, and Washington County. The subspecies has been at a peak in their population cycle for several years and is well distributed throughout its’ range.

The USFWS determined that the southern Idaho ground squirrel was a candidate species in 2001. As the majority of squirrel sites reside on private lands, a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) was developed with landowners to conserve the species without the need for listing. For more information read the Southern Idaho Ground Squirrel CCAA.

Landowners who participate in the CCAA agree to implement conservation practices on their lands to remove or reduce threats to the squirrels. In return, the FWS assures the landowners that no additional regulatory restrictions will be placed on their land management practices in the future should the species be listed under the ESA. Efforts are underway to develop other CCAAs in the area, as well as habitat conservation plans for other species.

The southern Idaho ground squirrel is not currently listed for protection under the ESA. It was removed from the ESA candidate species list in October 2015.

Staff Contact:

Joshua Uriarte and Jace Hogg

brown and gray spotted squirrel stands on its hind legs
Northern Idaho Ground Squirrel Photo Public Domain by Diane Evans-Mack, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Map of Idaho, green and gray highlighted section indicates Northern Idaho Ground Squirrels are found in a more central area of the state, the Payette National Forest Area, year round.
Northern Idaho Ground Squirrel Range
Map Credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game
a squirrel with short legs and large feet perched on a rock
Southern Idaho Ground Squirrel Photo credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife
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