Franklin's ground squirrel (Spermophilus franklinii) is declining in the eastern portion of its range, and this decline is often attributed to habitat fragmentation. However, the ability of S. franklinii to disperse across an agricultural landscape is not known. During spring 2002 we live trapped a small, apparently isolated, population of Franklin's ground squirrels in a 12-ha tallgrass prairie restoration located south of Urbana, Champaign County, Illinois. This prairie “island” was surrounded primarily by row-crop agriculture. We radio-tracked 14 juvenile Franklin's ground squirrels (seven males and seven females) throughout dispersal to determine how far dispersers traveled, the timing of dispersal, if dispersal distance differed between sexes and if the agricultural matrix surrounding the study site was a barrier to movements. Males dispersed farther than females, but individuals of both sexes moved ≥1 km from the study site. The farthest movement recorded was by a male who traveled 3.6 km. Dispersal was age-dependent for both sexes, occurring at 9–11 wk of age. Agricultural fields did not seem to hinder movement, probably because dispersal occurred in late July and August before row crops were harvested. Open areas such as roadways, however, may be barriers for some individuals.
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Vol. 153 • No. 2