The Arctic ground squirrel is an amazing little creature. Its body temperature drops below freezing in hibernation and it stumbles out of its slumber, and their burrows periodically to prevent their brains from going to pieces.
Come spring, the guys get out first and gorge themselves for mating. The ladies come up and mate usually on the first day. Twenty-eight days later pups are scurrying about.
Now, like most Alaskans, the rush is for juveniles to set out on their own and the entire brood to prepare for the cold, long, long winter that awaits.
Graduate student and researcher Trixie Lee (shown releasing a squirrel she captured the day before, and trying to coax another catch into a jar for anesthitization) sets traps daily (they love carrots) so she can tag and test a population nestled near the banks of the Atigun River. She'll look at hormones and a number other things to make us all a little hipper to the ways of the squirrel.
Nearby, undergraduate Ashley Fenn charts their behavior, Jane Goodall style.
After a day on the tundra they come back to a trailer to draw squirrel blood samples, take squirrel body mass measurements and tend to furry ones for a night.