EAS has been assisting Hanford Mission Integration Solutions (HMIS) with a conservation project for the Hanford Site. Townsend’s ground squirrels (Urocitellus townsendii) are a small burrowing rodent found in colonies in native grasslands and shrub-steppe habitat west of the Columbia River in Benton, Yakima, Klickitat, and Kittitas counties. These small squirrels are only active for four or five months out of the year and spend the rest hibernating in underground burrows.
After dramatic population declines throughout their range and the loss of all but one known colony on the Hanford Site, HMIS decided to push forward a conservation project to restore colonies of ground squirrels to the Hanford Site. EAS has been busy translocating ground squirrels from private land where they were seen as a pest to the Hanford site where two colony sites have been set up. The first translocation involved the use of release pens and artificial burrows designed to help keep squirrels at the release site and has so far been successful with the birth and emergence of several new litters. The second translocation was to an enclosure at another location on the Hanford Site. The enclosure provides added protection from predators. EAS will continue monitoring and supporting these translocated colonies until they enter hibernation, usually by the beginning of June, and will restart efforts when they emerge next February.