Captive Breeding, Husbandry, Release, and Translocation of Sciurids

Scientific Investigations Report 2023-5055
Prepared in cooperation with U.S. Bureau of Land Management



Captive breeding and release programs have been instrumental in preventing the extinction of some wildlife species, but these programs have been less successful for other species. Evaluating initial guidelines for procedures to start a captive breeding and release program for a particular species is an important first step in the process of initiating such a program. The Mohave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis) is a diurnal sciurid endemic to the Mojave Desert in southern California. Ongoing drought conditions in California, impacts of climate change, and reliance of Mohave ground squirrels on sufficient precipitation for successful reproduction appear to have resulted in recent extirpations of the species from part of its restricted range. Thus, designing a captive breeding and release program has been identified as a top priority for this species. The purpose of this report is to review and document the scientific literature on captive breeding and release, and wild-to-wild translocation, programs for other related sciurid species, as well as some non-sciurid rodent species. This review is important because captive breeding has never been attempted for Mohave ground squirrels, so models of similar species can provide good metrics and guidance in program development. We then use this review to identify key questions that underpin effective design of a captive breeding and release, or translocation, program for Mohave ground squirrels.

Suggested Citation

Poessel, S.A., 2023, Captive breeding, husbandry, release, and translocation of sciurids: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2023–5055, 19 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Capture of Founder Animals
  • Housing
  • Diet
  • Environmental Enrichment
  • Sociality
  • Health
  • Survival
  • Reproduction
  • Hibernation
  • Pre-Release Conditioning
  • Release
  • Translocation
  • Evaluating a Captive Breeding and Release or Translocation Program
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Glossary
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Captive breeding, husbandry, release, and translocation of sciurids
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2023-5055
DOI 10.3133/sir20235055
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description vi,19 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details