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Historical Event

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January 1, 1912





Short Description:

The spermophile, or ground squirrel feed principally upon the roots of various species of Polygonum, the “masū” roots of the Eskimo, and are very fat in the fall. The flesh is eaten by the Eskimo.





My Life with the Eskimo - Ground Squirrels

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Topics: (click to open)

Man The Fat Hunter
Facultative Carnivore
Carnivore Diet

Important Text:

  • Marmota caligata (Eschscholtz ). Hoary Marmot. Tjik'rik - pŭk, “ big marmot” (Alaskan Eskimo). Common in the Endicott Mountains north to the edge of the foot-hills. A few skins are taken by the inland Eskimo, and sold under the name of “ Badger.” Eskimo east of the Mackenzie say that the animal is not found in their country, but know the species by name, from garments brought in by western Eskimo. 

  • Citellus parryi kennicotti (Ross). Mackenzie Spermophile. Tjik' rik (Alaskan Eskimo). Tsik -tsik (Mackenzie Eskimo). Common all along the northern coast of Alaska, in the Mackenzie delta, and east to Franklin Bay. Less common in the more rocky and stony country east of Franklin Bay. These Spermophiles are particularly abundant in sandy, alluvial river bottoms where the ground thaws earlier and to a greater depth, allowing the animals to dig their favorite roots and excavate their burrows more readily than on the frozen, moss - covered tundra. They feed principally upon the roots of various species of Polygonum, the “masū” roots of the Eskimo, and are very fat in the fall, and for a short time after coming out of winter quarter. The bulk of the Spermophiles go into hibernation in the latter part of September, but a few are occasionally seen until the middle of October. They come out again about the middle of April. The flesh is eaten by the Eskimo, and the skins make very good warm garments. The males fight viciously among themselves, and most of the old males are badly scarred from their numerous battles. 

  • Citellus parryi (Richardson ). Hudson Bay Spermophile. Srik srik (Coronation Gulf Eskimo). Mr. E. A. Preble (N. A. Fauna, No. 27, p. 160) has conventionally placed the line between the habitats of C. parryi and of C. p. kenni cotti as the watershed between the Coppermine River and Great Bear Lake. The appearance and habits of the two varieties are similar, kennicotti being described as paler in color. The Spermophiles are very abundant in the sandy clay hills around the mouth of the Copper mine, and at various places along the south side of Coronation Gulf, and form a large part of the food of the Copper Eskimo in May and June, in the interim after they abandon sealing and leave their snow houses on the ice, and before they go inland for the summer Caribou hunt. We saw no evidence of the presence of Spermophiles on southern Victoria Island, and the Eskimo say that they are not found on the island. Citellus franklini (Sabine). Franklin's Spermophile. This species was not observed farther north than the Edmonton and Athabaska Landing trail. 

  • Citellus tridecemlineatus (Mitchill). Thirteen - lined Spermophile. Number seen on the trail a few miles north of Edmonton, Al berta, but none farther north.

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