Rock Squirrel And Lichens

Occasionally I digress from feathers to fur. This is one of those times.

For a variety of reasons some folks aren’t particularly fond of squirrels but when it comes to Rock Squirrels I’ll photograph them whenever I can. They’ve been an elusive subject for my camera, they’re a native mammal in the American West and I think they’re an interesting critter that deserves some respect.


1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender

Five days ago I spent some time with this one in Mercur Canyon. It was scurrying around in some of its typical rocky habitat but occasionally it stopped to pose for me. I’m a fan of lichens so when you throw a cute little guy like this into the mix I’ll take the shot every time.



1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender

Rock Squirrels are our largest ground squirrel but unlike many ground squirrels they have a bushy tail. I like those conspicuous white crescents above and below each eye.



1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender

The burrows of this species are found beneath rocks and that’s one of the reasons they’re considered to be pests in some areas. Apparently they don’t differentiate between rocks and concrete so they often burrow beneath sidewalks and foundations, causing considerable damage. Personally I’ve never seen one of these squirrels near human habitation but in some areas of the west they really wreak havoc in areas like parks and schools.



1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender

This was my last view of the squirrel as it perched atop a rocky pinnacle and surveyed its kingdom. Red-tailed Hawks and even Golden Eagles are found in the area and in an exposed position like this the squirrel needed to be wary. And it was.

If you’re interested here’s a video clip of a Rock Squirrel in one of the most rocky and spectacular habitats in the world. Obviously this squirrel wasn’t afraid of heights. And I had to wonder if it understood French… 🙂


20 comments to Rock Squirrel And Lichens

  • What a charmer. And yes, add me to the lichen likers…

  • Joanne O'Brien

    Another enjoyable group of photos. I Did not know about Rock squirrels, but I am a fan of all the squirrels here in the east. My favorite photo is the last where you step back and we get to see him in his habitat it’s so nicely framed. And of course, I’m likin’ the lichen!

  • Laura Culley

    Ahhh squirrels are cool and I’d agree with Patty–who’s in whose territory? When humans learn to share–but there I go tilting at windmills again…but I digress. Squirrels of all sorts keep raptors fed (including prairie falcons who are a lot like the redtails of the falcon family–not fussy about what they eat) plus they’re cute little boogers! Yes, they’re rats with a floofy/fluffy tail, but hey! We could all benefit from a floofy/fluffy tail 🙂 Toss in the lichens and I’m a happy girl.

    • Laura, that bushy tail really looks strange to me on a ground squirrel. We have many species of them and most of their tails are like those of the Richardson’s Ground Squirrel – relatively short and not bushy.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Love these photos. I’m not familiar with Rock Squirrels. We had grey squirrels when we lived in New York. The video made me a little nervous!!

  • Lynn Atkins

    I think they are speaking Japanese! 😉

  • Marty K

    He’s out looking for that hour of sleep!

    Interesting that he has a floofy tail. I would think that might be a liability for a burrower. The skull shape seems a little different from the grey squirrels that drive the dog nuts (and hide in our tree eating our oranges). *Scurries off for a date with the Googlemeister*

  • Patty Chadwick

    I LOVE SQIIRRELS!!! Have raised a few…yes, they invade human habitat and can be destructive, but we invade theirs, too and are EXTREMELY destructive!!! The one in the clip is either obese or pregnant…probably obese from eating the garbage tossed to it by tourists. It looks like it’s used to panhandling. I’m glad the French tourists didn’t scare it over the edge! That place is so impressive,that even after my third visit, it was still hard to wrap my mind around its immensity and grandeur! Please keep that fur coming….

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful!:) I too like lichens and they are a perfect foil for the rock squirrel. I’ve never heard of Rock Squirrel’s. Some of the other squirrels raise hell with bird feeders and nests in town. Video was great – rugged terrain for sure.

  • Dick Harlow

    To get that close to the edge I would either walk away or be flat on my belly! No way would I be looking down at the Grand Canyon unless from an airplane!!
    Love to know what they were saying in french.

  • Dick Harlow

    Very nice shots Ron! Love the lichens!
    I needed to see this with 1 degree below 0 this AM. Spring can’t come soon enough!