Recently I travelled through Montana and as on any road trip, rest stops are a much needed and necessary facility when going cross-country on the Interstate system. This particular stop in Saltese, Montana will be one to remember. As I was walking to the building – I noticed a flurry of activity on the edge of the property which had a sudden rise in elevation behind it continuing up into the forest. At the base of this hill, there were about a dozen furry little rodents darting back and forth. As a native Floridian who had never been in Montana before, I thought these were groundhogs. Cute, reddish-brown with grey, and obviously part of a bigger colony, they began warning each other of danger as I approached.
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I had my North American field guides in my backpack in the truck, and after a short comparison to my shots and physical and behavioral attributes., I came up with the proper identification of Columbian ground squirrels – native to Western Montana, North and Central Idaho, Eastern Washington, Northeastern Oregon, Southern British Columbia, and Western Alberta.
Sometimes drinking too much coffee on a road trip can have its benefits!Rich Leighton, August 27, 2011