Mercur Canyon Rock Squirrel

Rock Squirrel on rocksRock Squirrel on rocks – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I didn’t have much luck at all with birds yesterday in the west desert canyons but I did spot and photograph a Rock Squirrel in Mercur Canyon. The squirrel is small in the frame but I love how much of the squirrels habitat shows in this photo.

Rock Squirrels are large ground squirrels that have speckled grayish brown coats, long brushy tails with white edges, pointed ears that rise above their heads and dark eyes with white rings around them. They can be 21 inches in length. They are active during the winter unlike many other ground squirrels though they may hibernate briefly in the coldest weather in the northern part of their range. They do estivate during the hottest times of the year. Rock Squirrels are nearly always found in rocky locales such as canyon walls, talus slopes, cliffs, boulder piles and hills. There are found in these areas where there are oaks, pinyon pines and juniper growth.

Mercur Canyon is a six mile Canyon on the west side of the Oquirrh Mountains and early on there were gold and silver mines there and the canyon was then called Lewiston Canyon but those mines failed for various reasons including the difficulty of extracting the gold from the ore.

In the late 1800’s Arie Pinedo, of German descent, obtained the property to mine for mercury, merkur is the German word for mercury and the canyon was named Mercur at that time and that name has remained until present day. Today cyanide is processed at a mine up the canyon past the locked gates.

Mercur Canyon is beautiful. There are pinyon pines, junipers and smaller shrubs like sagebrush on the canyon walls. I have seen Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and smaller birds like Black-billed Magpies, Northern Flickers, Mountain Bluebirds, Juniper Titmice and more while in the canyon. It is not a super birdy place but I do love going there.

This photo shows the Rock Squirrel on a rocky ledge and a plant at the lower right edge of the frame, that plant is an Ephedra, also known as Mormon Tea because the plant was used as a substitute for black tea and also for medicinal purposes.

I don’t yet know where I am going today but I hope I find a few more birds than I did yesterday.

Life is good.



  1. Utahbooklover February 15, 2017 at 12:41 am

    I like the image and enjoyed the post; been quite a while since I was out that way.
    And I liked Steven’s story too. Squirrels are pretty intelligent rodents, and brave.

  2. Azstu February 14, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    I had one in my yard as a resident when I moved here. Used to sit on the patio or up large bush. Have great personality for some reason. And a cool speckly coat.

  3. Bob McPherson February 14, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    An ever watchful eye out.

  4. Patty Chadwick February 14, 2017 at 11:35 am

    The composition of this shot is particularly nice…

  5. Patty Chadwick February 14, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I love it when you provide any of your “birdless” images…flowers, landscapes, rocks, insects, mammals…can’t like birds and not like the other stuff, too….this little guy sure is camouflages well!!!

  6. Steven Kessel February 14, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Nice. They’re plentiful down here in Arizona and they are tough customers. I once witnessed a Rock Squirrel fight off a hungry Cooper’s Hawk. The hawk swooped down on the squirrel, attempting to seize it from behind. The squirrel, seeing the hawk coming, turned and charged at the hawk even before it landed. The Cooper’s Hawk beat a hasty retreat.

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