Trick question! This little guy, distant cousins of which you will find throughout the Sierra Nevada, is the golden-mantled ground squirrel. They are nearly ubiquitous in the forests. Although they look like chipmunks, there are two easy ways to tell them apart. Squirrels never have striped markings on their face, and they never sing popular Christmas carols. (They also roll their eyes and get very annoyed if you ask them if they know Alvin, Theodore, or Simon.)
They are small – less than a foot from nose to tail even when fully grown. Unlike western chipmunks, golden-mantled ground squirrels hibernate in the winter (although they often store a little food in their burrows and have been observed waking from their long, winter naps from time to time and snacking). They eat about what you imagine: nuts, seeds, berries, and insects. They are eaten BY raptors and other small mammals.
Females start families in the summer with litters of 4 – 6. The young are blind, deaf, hairless, and require parental attention (given almost exclusively by the female) for the first month.
I always enjoy having golden-mantled ground squirrels near my campsite. They have such enthusiasm for everything they do, whether it is posing for the perfect photo or chasing their friends up and down a fallen log. I’ve never caught one nibbling at my gear.
Good hiking, Ray