Arctic ground squirrels (Urocitellus parryii plesius (Osgood, 1900); formerly Spermophilus parryii plesius
Osgood, 1900) were studied in three distinct habitat types (boreal forest, low-elevation meadows, and alpine meadows) in the Kluane region of the southwest Yukon Territory, Canada, from 2008 to 2010 to determine if populations in these different habitats provide evidence for habitat-specific
distribution and abundance. Abundance in the boreal forest has been shown to be synchronous with the cycle of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus Erxleben, 1777) in the region owing to shared predators.
We predicted that populations in the boreal forest would be low because of the current low phase in the cycle of snowshoe hares, and that in low-altitude meadows and alpine meadows, ground squirrels would be relatively abundant. Late-summer densities differed significantly between habitat
types with 0.38 ± 0.13 squirrel/ha (mean ± 1 SE) in boreal-forest habitat, 1.25 ± 0.22 squirrel/ha in low-altitude-meadow habitat, and 5.7 ± 0.22 squirrels/ha in alpine-meadow habitat. In 2009, populations were extirpated from boreal-forest
habitat, while densities in low-elevation meadows and alpine meadows were 1.6 ± 0.34 squirrel/ha and 6.1 ± 0.7 squirrels/ha, respectively. The current absence of squirrels from the boreal forest and the persistence of populations in low-elevation-meadow and alpine-meadow
habitat suggest that source–sink dynamics may exist between boreal-forest and meadow habitat types.
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