Ground Squirrel: The Mysterious Rodent of Kodiak

Donald W. Clark

Abstract

Chirikof Island is well separated from the Alaska Peninsula and other landmasses. Thus its Arctic ground squirrels evidently were introduced by humans, as were all other land mammals on the island. It is unlikely that fur companies introduced ground squirrels. Rather, the animals appear to have been released there by Natives, particularly the Alutiiq of Kodiak. Radiocarbon dating of two archaeological habitation sites from which ground squirrel bones have been recovered confirms that the context of the bones is prehistoric in age and predates Russian settlement in the area by two centuries in one case, and probably by more than a millennium in the other case. Additionally, the time line for contact for the Semidi Islands and for Marmot Island (near Afognak Island) renders it likely that ground squirrels found on those islands were also introduced in pre-contact times.

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