The arctic ground squirrel is a keystone species and very important in the diet of many of the Park’s carnivores. They are about 90% of the golden eagle’s summer diet and are the chief food of gyrfalcons in some areas. In the summer, wolves and fox feed heavily on them and they furnish a large amount of the protein in the diet of bears. Each ground squirrel is about 2,000 calories.
Their digging and tunneling helps to aerate soils and their feces adds nitrogen. They are true hibernators. They burrow about three feet beneath the soil with an insulating layer of snow above. They survive in a catatonic state by dropping their metabolism and core body temperature to about 27 degrees F. They survive winter in a super cooled state and yet their body fluids don’t freeze even though they reduce their body temperatures below freezing. They can hibernate for as long as eight months but increase their metabolic rates and body temperatures for 12-14-hour periods every 20 days.
Alaskan Wildlife can be seen in Denali National Park. Kantishna Wilderness Trails provides Alaska Wildlife Day Tours while Kantishna Roadhouse offers Denali lodging and accommodations for Alaska Travel and Alaska Vacations deep into Denali National Park.