Exposing the elusive: Franklin’s ground squirrel (Poliocitellus franklinii) demography, nest relocation, and dam response to ectoparasitism
Franklin’s ground squirrels (Poliocitellus franklinii; FGS) are increasingly considered of conservation concern throughout much of their range, yet little is known about this species as compared to their congeners. The main objectives of this thesis were to (1) collate and summarize demographic and life-history data to present an up-to-date account of population characteristics for a FGS population near Delta Marsh, Manitoba, (2) document nest movements wherein female FGS relocate their nests and litter during the energetically demanding lactation period and to investigate proximate factors mediating movements, including intraspecific interaction, ectoparasite burden, and nest habitat associations, and, (3) investigate the influence of ectoparasite infestation on dam and litter attributes. Dams consistently relocated litters during lactation in response to conspecific nest discovery, ectoparasite pressure and habitat type. Relocations may compensate for major costs of ectoparasitism, as beyond the frequency of relocation, only litter sex ratio was influenced by ectoparasite burden in this study.