Zoology Jottings: Richardson’s Floor Squirrel

Richardson’s Floor Squirrel aka Flickertail

I’ve misplaced depend of the variety of occasions I’ve been to Grasmere within the Lake District for Rank Prize Funds symposia. Not all that way back the one place within the village it was attainable to get a cell phone sign was by the church tower. I didn’t know till at the moment that the grave of Sir John Richardson FRS FRSE (1787-1865) lies just a few yards from the place I struggled with my Nokia. Certainly, in June had been had been in North Dakota watching this eponymous Floor Squirrel harvest the grass seeds and leaves from round it burrow; in July I used to be again in Grasmere—however not within the churchyard.

It additionally took me years to find {that a} floor squirrel I stored within the early Sixties was of this species. They had been listed by animal sellers of the time as Flickertails. It was solely after I obtained a maintain of Walker’s Mammals of the World that I discovered there different widespread and scientific names. So widespread is the bottom squirrel that North Dakota has the nickname, Flickertail State. The tail which is small actually does flick however in lengthy grass the motion is troublesome to see. My Flickertail grew to become tame, up to a degree. It might take meals from the hand however any nearer motion meant a speedy retreat to a cave I had organized on a thick substratum of dried earth and sand during which it may dig.

Sir John Richardson was born in Dumfries, and a graduate of Edinburgh medical faculty. He served as a naval surgeon and arctic explorer. He was a good friend of Sir John Franklin and a member of the latter’s expeditions of 1819-1822 and 1825-1827. He was additionally concerned within the useless seek for Franklin and his workforce in 1847. Joseph Sabine FRS (1770-1837) lawyer, turned horticulturalist, botanist and zoologist named the bottom squirrel after Richardson in 1822.

Richardson’s Floor Squirrel has been assigned to a number of genera over time. For many years it was often known as Spermophilus richardsonii however in 2009 that genus was break up into eight and S. richardsonii grew to become Urocitellus richardsonii.

Seeing these floor squirrels concerned nothing greater than strolling out of the lodge door in Minot, North Dakota and looking out over an space of mown grass between the lodge and the primary street. There these floor squirrels popped up and down into their burrows, not involved in any respect by vehicular visitors however quickly disappearing when people walked by.

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