Ground squirrels are members of the squirrel family of rodents and generally live on or in the ground. Several different species of ground squirrels can be found in Wyoming, however, the Wyoming ground squirrel Urocitellus elegans, formerly called the Richardson’s ground squirrel, is associated with issues in the state.
Ground squirrels can compete with livestock for forage and can destroy food crops. Their burrows can damage ornamental landscaping, hay fields, golf courses, and cemeteries. Unlike prairie dog mounds that are dome or crater-shaped, ground squirrel holes are fanned out and typically level with the surrounding landscape. The Wyoming ground squirrel can often be confused with the black-tailed prairie dog, but unlike the black-tailed prairie dog, the Wyoming ground squirrel hibernates over winter.
Issues with ground squirrels in the state have been identified as far back as 1893 when the University of Wyoming reported in 1892 that their barley harvest at the Laramie Experiment Farm was so badly damaged by ground squirrels that in some instances the yield was less than the amount of seed sown.
Ground squirrels were initially identified as a nuisance rodent in Wyoming by the 1886 Territorial Legislature. In 1973 the Wyoming legislature identified the ground squirrel as a designated pest under the current weed and pest law. The designation allows the county Weed and Pest Control Districts to work with local landowners to develop management programs that may include cost-share agreements.