Fox Squirrel and Gray Squirrel Associations within Minimally Disturbed Longleaf Pine Forests

Fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) are an important species in longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forests. We estimated fox squirrel density within 6 minimally disturbed longleaf pine strands, examined association between fox and gray squirrels (S. carolinensis), and measured habitat variables at fox and gray squirrel capture sites. Fox squirrel density estimates ranged from 12-19 squirrels/km2 among study areas. Fox squirrel capture sites had higher pine basal area, higher total basal area, higher herbaceous groundcover, and lower woody groundcover than other sites. Gray squirrel capture sites had higher hardwood, oak, and total basal areas; lower pine basal area, higher woody groundcover, and less herbaceous groundcover than other sites. A strong negative association between fox and gray squirrel capture sites appeared related to species-specific habitat preferences. Fox squirrel capture sites had higher pine and lower hardwood basal areas than gray squirrel capture sites. Further, herbaceous groundcover, especially wiregrass (Aristida stricta), dominated fox squirrel capture sites, whereas woody groundcover dominated gray squirrel capture sites. Logistic regression models indicated that pine basal area and herbaceous groundcover were positively related to probability of fox squirrel capture whereas fern groundcover was negatively related to the possibility of fox squirrel capture. Oak basal area and total basal area were positively related to probability of gray squirrel capture whereas herbaceous groundcover was negatively related to possibility of gray squirrel capture. Oak basal area, total basal area, and herbaceous groundcover best discriminated between fox and gray squirrel capture sites. Prescribed fire retards hardwood enroachment, increases herbaceous groundcover, and thus may be critical to maintaining fox squirrel habitat.

Starting page
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ID
12560