Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: The effects of livestock on California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyii)

Published source details

Fehmi J.S., Russo S.E. & Bartolome J.W. (2005) The effects of livestock on California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyii). Rangeland Ecology & Management, 58, 352-359


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Exclude livestock from semi-natural habitat (including woodland) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1991–1994 in grassland and savanna in California, USA (Fehmi et al. 2005) found that excluding grazing livestock did not increase the number of California ground squirrel Spermophilus beecheyii burrows. Changes in the number of active ground squirrel burrows, relative to pre-experiment numbers, did not differ between ungrazed and grazed plots (60–100% vs 40–100% of pre-experiment numbers). The spatial distribution of active burrow entrances did not differ between ungrazed and grazed plots (2.6–3.4 vs 2.2–4.1 m between nearest burrows). Three sites, each with four plots, were studied. Half of plots were in grassland, and half were in savanna. Half had cattle-exclusion fencing and half were cattle-grazed from spring to summer. Three ground squirrel colonies were mapped in each plot in autumn 1991 (pre-experiment). Fencing was erected late in 1991 and burrows were further mapped in autumns of 1992–1994.

(Summarised by Gorm Shakelford & Nick Littlewood)

Other biodiversity: Exclude grazers Mediterranean Farmland

A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1991–1994 in grassland and blue oak Quercus douglasii savannas in central California, USA, found that live plant cover, native plant cover, and plant biomass were lower in areas with high numbers of ground squirrel burrows in grazed plots, but not in ungrazed plots. Mammals: The number of active ground squirrel burrows, relative to pre-experiment numbers, did not differ between ungrazed and grazed plots (60–100% vs 40–100% of pre-experiment numbers). The spatial distribution of burrows did not differ between ungrazed and grazed plots (2.6–3.4 vs 2.2–4.1 m between nearest burrows). Plants: Live plant cover, plant biomass, and native plant cover did not decrease with increasing numbers of ground squirrel burrows in ungrazed plots, but did decrease in grazed plots (3%, 60 g/m2, and 1.8% declines, respectively, for every additional burrow in a colony). Methods: Three sites, each with four plots, were established in 1991. Half of the plots were in grassland, and half were in savanna. Half had cattle excluded from them by a fence, and half were grazed from spring to summer. Three ground squirrel colonies were monitored in each plot, and vegetation was measured in a 625 cm2 plot near the centre of each, at the end of the 1992–1994 growing seasons.